Budget 2021: Lifetime allowance freeze risks exodus of senior Consultants

HCSA - the hospital doctors’ union has today called for urgent action on medical pay to avert an NHS exodus over the Chancellor’s five-year freeze on the pensions lifetime allowance.

The union warned that the news could not come at a worse time for the health service, which faces a dual threat from a burnt-out and demoralised workforce and a backlog of millions of cases following an unprecedented year, something acknowledged by the Chancellor who announced £1 billion in funding for catch-up work.

HCSA fears that without action the lifetime allowance freeze will push vital hospital doctors into retirement earlier and in greater numbers.

  • The union’s research suggests the NHS can already expect a significant impact from the pandemic on career intentions, with one in 20 doctors in a recent survey stating they now planned to leave medicine as a direct result of the pandemic
  • The union has lodged a minimum pay claim of 3 percent for all medical staff for 2021-2 and 3.8 percent for Junior Doctors, whose salaries have fallen relative to more senior grades since the start of the national emergency.

HCSA President Dr Claudia Paoloni said: “The decision to freeze the pensions lifetime allowance will have a unique and damaging impact on NHS medical staff that must be recognised urgently.

“The medical workforce is already extremely volatile as a result of a year of unprecedented pressure on the service with no end in sight. We will inevitably see more of our most experienced hospital doctors opting to leave the service earlier as a result of this measure.

“It could not come at a worse time for an NHS reeling from a year of Covid-19 and facing a huge backlog of work which will require all hands on to the pump.

“Even before the Chancellor’s announcement medical staff were reviewing their future, with one in 20 telling HCSA they are planning to exit the profession altogether.

“It is essential that all necessary steps are now taken to avert an exodus of Consultants, and pay is the central mechanism to this. Even more so given the need to counterbalance the unique implications of today’s Budget for senior hospital doctors.

“We have allocated billions on tools to combat the pandemic. Relative to this, investing in the NHS workforce to deal with its impact would be money well spent. We need to act this year, before it is too late, to retain every doctor we can.”