Govt NHS scheme proposals need ‘further action’ – NHS chief

Government proposals to make the NHS pension scheme more flexible for staff needs “significant further action” to sustain NHS services, according to NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens.

Speaking at the NHS Expo, Stevens said that flexibility alone will not be enough to ensure that more experienced clinicians do not leave the pension scheme.

The government has proposed a ‘flexible’ solution to the tax issues facing the scheme, which would allow doctors to choose how much of their salary they wish to be pensionable, after its ‘50:50’ solution was widely criticised for not providing the flexibility needed.

Stevens commented: “It’s very welcomed that we are seeing flexibility now being consulted on by the government.

“We’re going to see significant further action on the way the annual allowance works to ensure hospital clinicians and primary care clinicians are able to continue to sustain the range of services that patients clearly want.”

The problem stems from the introduction of the tapered annual allowance in April 2016, and the lowering of the tax relief threshold from £1.25m to £1m, which has meant that some GPs are penalised for continuing to pay into their pension fund.

As a result of the measure, some doctors can face 100 per cent tax charges on their earnings with no subsequent benefit in their pension.

Stevens continued: “We have to be honest about the fact that in some respect the patient and the public experience is not what we would want.

“Waits for GP appointments have been getting longer, partly of course due to the great pressures on GP practice themselves, the fact that GP numbers have not kept up with the rising patient need.

“Yes, we’re succeeding in recruiting the highest number ever of young doctors into general practice training, but we haven’t been able to hold onto the more experienced GPs who will be retiring early partly because of the pension crisis brought about by the tax treatment of pensions.”

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