HCSA has urged the government to strengthen planned changes to hospital doctors’ pension rules, warning they do not go far enough to prevent the NHS haemorrhaging Consultants or seeing them cut back on work.
In a submission to a consultation on changes to be implemented this year, the association’s pensions committee warned that action is needed to allow negative growth to be recognised, and expressed concern at arbitrary rules requiring doctors to reduce hours or responsibility in order to access their legacy pension benefits while still accruing pension in the new scheme.
HCSA’s policy remains that tax reform is needed to both Lifetime Allowance and the Annual Allowance rules to truly solve the current crisis. But the government has proposed limited changes which will include:
• Aligning the dates when inflation is applied to pensions growth calculations to prevent unfair artificial rises
• Allowing hospital doctors to retire and return while in receipt of their 1995 and continue to accrue 2015 scheme benefits provided they cut pensionable pay by 10 percent
In its consultation submission, HCSA also urged the government to implement a national agreement to compel trusts to offer pensions contribution recycling, allowing Consultants to receive the equivalent of the employer contribution directly in their salary once they stop paying into their pensions.
HCSA Pensions Committee chair Dr Sarah Tennant warned that the changes as planned would not prevent many Consultants from seeking to cut back on sessions to avoid tax bills.
She said: “The government is clearly aware of the serious crisis around pensions yet remains unwilling to acknowledge the fact that the real answer is tax reform.
“It is proposing some welcome technical changes but even these have flaws. The government needs to recognise that preventing doctors from offsetting periods of negative pensions growth against periods of positive growth is an essential part of any fair scheme. Acting on this would reduce the pressure for consultants and specialists to cut back on hours and responsibilty to avoid tax bills.
“We already know what leaving pension contribution recycling to employers to decide means – we end up with an uneven patchwork which is completely unfair. That’s why we have called for a national agreement.
“And the plans to force those claiming their 1995 pension and contributing into their 2015 to cut back their pensionable pay by 10 percent is just bizarre and arbitrary. Why are we forcing people to cut down on work when we desperately need every pair of hands we can get?
“HCSA shall continue to lobby the government for more fundamental tax changes. Every week it delays means the further loss of expertise and vital consultants and specialists from our NHS.”