Last updated:

Reverse pensions tax to boost recruitment, demand doctors leaders

HARWOOD: 'It's been a tough year'

Ministers must fix the punitive pension tax and reverse the decade-long, real-terms pay cut imposed on consultants as part of a broader effort to retain and recruit them for the pressured NHS.

This was the call from BMA consultants committee chair Rob Harwood at the UK consultants conference yesterday.

Dr Harwood said Government appeared to be doing ‘all it can to force consultants out’ instead of offering attractive pay and conditions at a time when they were increasingly relied on.

‘It’s been a tough year … with inexorably rising demand and dwindling resources to meet them. It has led to the worst-ever NHS performance on the four-hour target, 12-hour trolley waits, and waiting-list size – despite all our hard work.

‘And at a time when demand is rising how is the NHS addressing that? More resources? More colleagues? No, consultant numbers are falling behind that growth in demand, making us ever more stretched. The NHS does little or nothing to retain consultants. Frankly, Government does all it can to force consultants out through taxation that punished or devalues the worth of additional and continuing worth.’

Dr Harwood told the conference it was ‘blindingly obvious’ that improved pay and conditions were needed to recruit and retain staff.

Thousands of hospital consultants have reduced their working hours, and thousands more were planning to cut back because of pension tax laws – according to a BMA survey last year.

Almost a third of consultants had already reduced their hours last August, when the survey reported.

Ministers could take ‘simple steps’ to encourage consultants to stay in post, Dr Harwood said.

Read Dr Harwood's blog


Read more from Keith Cooper and follow on Twitter.