Fears of staff crisis in NHS deepens as it emerges forty per cent of GPs have taken early retirement or slashed their hours over pensions row
- Survey of 6,000 senior doctors revealed 70% reduced or plan to reduce hours
- Patients are bearing brunt, with hospital waiting times soaring by up to 50%
- 2016 pension reforms forced senior doctors to cut hours to avoid huge tax bills
Four in ten GPs have taken early retirement or slashed their hours because of a pensions crisis in the NHS.
A further third of family doctors are planning to reduce their appointment times within the next year, figures reveal.
Campaigners warned last night the crisis is putting patients’ lives at risk and making it ‘harder than ever’ to get an appointment.
Pension reforms introduced in 2016 have forced senior doctors to cut their hours to avoid a tax bill that can run into tens of thousands.
Four in ten GPs have taken early retirement or slashed their hours because of a pensions crisis in the NHS
A survey of 6,000 senior doctors by the British Medical Association, released today, revealed 70 per cent of hospital consultants and three quarters of GPs have either reduced their hours or are planning to.
The vast majority of these have cut back their hours in the past few months with no sign of a way to solve the problem.
Patients are bearing the brunt, with hospital waiting times soaring by up to 50 per cent and consultants having to cancel growing numbers of non-urgent operations.
Meanwhile, GP waiting times are increasing as the pensions row exacerbates a shortage of doctors.
Earlier this week, the Mail revealed how the numbers of patients per GP have risen by a third in the past two years in some areas of England.
One 56-year-old GP, who has halved his hours to avoid a tax bill of £40,000, said he is now one of the oldest doctors in Gloucestershire because so many of his colleagues are taking early retirement.
The BMA says the pensions crisis is the ‘greatest immediate threat’ to patient care. Doctors are being penalised by tax charges on their pensions that have significantly increased under Treasury rules introduced in 2016.
Under the new rules, anyone earning more than £110,000 a year will be hit with a tax charge if they put more than £10,000 into their pension pot each year. Previously, they could pay up to £40,000 into their pension pot a year tax-free.
These individuals will be hit by additional charges if the value of their pension pot exceeds £1million.
These rules affect all high earners but doctors – whose average salaries are more than £100,000 a year – are among the hardest hit.
Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said: ‘It is absolutely horrifying. It’s already difficult enough to get a GP appointment. This will make it harder than ever to be seen by a doctor and put lives at risk.
‘It’s not my impression that doctors do too badly and it sounds a bit greedy, but if the Government needs to sweeten the pot to stop them quitting, it should do.’
The NHS is short of 10,000 hospital doctors and relies on GPs and consultants working overtime to plug gaps in the rota.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said: ‘With patient lists growing and the numbers of GPs falling, swift and decisive action is needed from the Government to end this shambolic situation and to limit the damage that a punitive pensions taxation system is inflicting.’
Boris Johnson promised last week to tackle the pressures on family surgeries and has pledged to ‘fix’ the pensions crisis.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We’re consulting on how we can make NHS pensions more flexible and we will listen to all views on our proposals.’