The UK is trying to overhaul the NHS retirement plan in an effort to pull thousands of retired employees and prevent doctors from quitting over pension tax bills as patient waiting lists grow.
Government Monday said its aim was to make it more attractive to staff who had left the health service to ‘return’ by allowing them to rejoin the NHS pension scheme, which offers guaranteed indexed benefits.
In an attempt to address widespread staff shortages, a partial retirement option will be introduced; that would give older employees the opportunity to withdraw part of their pension, while they continue to work and build their fund.
In addition, it is proposed to formalize access to the National Health Service pension plan so that primary health care workers such as GPs, general practice nurses and clinical pharmacists can join the retirement plan, which has more than 1 million members. Previously, these groups had to request time-limited access on an as-needed basis, the government said.
The government has also vowed to “fix” pension plan rules that have landed some senior doctors and NHS staff big tax bills because of the way health service pensions are accounted for. inflation.
“The generous NHS pension scheme is one of the best in the country, but it is not working as it should for everyone,” said Steve Barclay, health secretary.
“We need a system where our most experienced doctors don’t feel like they have to reduce their workload or take early retirement due to financial concerns. I also want to make it easier for staff who want to go back to work to support the NHS so they can do so without penalty.
“These proposed changes will help open up additional appointments so patients can see their GP and consultants more quickly,” Barclay added.
The changes come as official data found the number of patients awaiting treatment in September had reached a record of 7mnand the British Medical Association said the buildup would take “years to clear up”.
However, the government has not proposed any changes to annual or lifetime pension savings allowances, which limit how much can be saved or increased in a pension before tax charges are applied.
The medical unions had pushed for reformssaying members were receiving punitive pension tax bills for missing their assignments after working overtime to help clear backlogs or accept promotions.
“The partial retirement option and increased flexibility for recently retired doctors returning to the workforce have potential benefits and, in particular, will standardize retirement and return arrangements,” said Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA’s pensions committee. .
“However, this does not directly address the problems caused by the annual or lifetime allowance,” he added. “Doctors will still have to consider reducing the work they do to avoid incurring large penalty tax bills and it is disingenuous for the government to suggest this will make a significant difference to the huge delays in care.”
according to a recent BMA survey, more than 40 per cent of consultants said they planned to leave the NHS in some way over the next 12 months. The doctors’ union said the situation was “just as tough for GPs and other senior doctors” and described the PCN’s pension reforms as “minor”.
NHS Providers, which represents health organizations across England, said that with more than 133,000 vacancies, the health service could not afford to lose “valuable and experienced colleagues” and was “desperately in need” of a national workforce plan to long term.
Saffron Cordery, acting chief executive, welcomed the government’s proposals on pension taxation rules, but said “to have a lasting effect, these changes must be fair to the entire workforce and address the root of the problem.” .
The reforms, which are subject to an eight-week consultation, are not expected to be implemented until late spring 2023, the government said.