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Consultants cutting hours to avoid ‘crippling’ tax bills

Patients could face even longer waits this winter, warns college

Two thirds (64%) of consultant surgeons have been advised to work fewer hours in the NHS to avoid “crippling and unpredictable” tax bills.

The YouGov survey commissioned by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) also reveals 68% of consultant surgeons are considering early retirement because of the pensions tax situation and 69% have reduced the amount of time they have spent working in the NHS as a direct result of changes to pension taxation rules.

The RCS is urging Boris Johnson to follow through on a pledge he made last summer to resolve the NHS pensions “tax trap” before winter arrives.  It warned that patients will face even longer waits if the government doesn’t take swift action.

An unforeseen consequence of a taper in the NHS pensions scheme has led to doctors receiving large and unpredictable tax bills for agreeing to work extra weekend shifts on waiting list initiatives. 

Many have received financial or legal advice to work less, refrain from taking part in waiting list reduction initiatives or retire early.

The NHS waiting list in England stands at a record 4.41 million. In August 2019, more than 660,000 patients were waiting more than 18 weeks to start treatment, including surgery.

Among consultant surgeons who undertook extra operating sessions in the last year to reduce surgical waiting lists, two thirds (66%) said they will not take on extra sessions this year.

Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said the impact of pension tax rule changes on waiting times for surgery are devastating. “Patients already face overly long waits for operations. Persisting with a tax system that punishes clinicians for taking on extra work, will undoubtedly lead to a further deterioration in waiting times,” he warned.