When the NHS is faced with growing staff shortages, senior and highly experienced GPs and hospital doctors in the North East are cutting back on their work or leaving the profession entirely; partly because of stress and an increasing workload, but also because of damaging tax and pension regulations, which penalise them for working longer hours.
The current lifetime and annual allowance pension limits are resulting in large and often unexpected financial burdens for the most senior and experienced of doctors, and the problems are made worse if they do more hours to try to reduce patient waiting lists.
The effect on patient care, and the impact on junior doctors, whom they help train to be our consultants of the future, cannot be underestimated.
Recent BMA research shows that six out of 10 consultants intend to retire before or at the age of 60, with only 6.5 per cent expecting to remain working after the age of 65, citing the pension regulations as a key driver for this decision.
A situation where the Government talks about increasing productivity in secondary care, while allowing extreme financial pressure on its most experienced doctors to force them to do less work and, in some cases, to leave the NHS when they do not want to, is clearly untenable.
The BMA Consultants Committee has written to the Chancellor and the Health Minister highlighting the serious implications for the NHS and calling for the removal of the annual and lifetime allowance cap.
We also called for the introduction of a national policy for trusts to begin recycling employer pension contributions to members who have already left the scheme to offset the powerful disincentives that are forcing consultants to reduce and stop work.
Dr Sunil Nodiyal
Chairman, Northern BMA Regional Consultants Committee Council