HALF of doctors in Scotland now intend to retire earlier than previously planned, with the vast majority blaming huge pension tax bills.
The survey of 2,800 doctors nearing retiring age, showed that in the last two years, 38% per cent of clinicians aged 50 to 65 had been hit with a pension tax charge.
Of the doctors in this age bracket, 45% said they planned to retire earlier than they had previously intended, with 86% citing pension tax worries.
Tax changes rolled out under David Cameron’s government were intended to avoid the super-rich benefitting from tax relief, but have ended up with doctors on salaries of £110,000 or more paying tax rates of more than 90% on their earnings, including their pension contributions.
The tax bills can exceed anything medics are earning in overtime, resulting in many shunning extra work designed to cut waiting times.
Some doctors whose salaries have been boosted by distinction awards or promotions have also been hit by tax bills that outweigh their pay rise.
One consultant who runs a regional specialist service said they had been hit by a £92,000 bill after a receiving a distinction award.
The doctor said: “I have had to come out of the pension scheme in my 40s due to punitive projected tax costs and I now work the equivalent of two sessions per week unpaid. I intend to leave the NHS at the earliest opportunity.”
Another, who is a deputy medical director, said the promotion to a leadership role had come with an £85,000 tax bill.
They said: “I believed in the NHS, worked ridiculous hours as a junior, believing in a greater good but now I feel so unvalued and as though it was all an utter mistake.”
The survey by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh also found that 62% of senior clinicians avoid overtime, 25% have cut back their hours, and 22% have stepped down from a leadership posts to avoid financial penalties.
Professor Jackie Taylor, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow said: “If government values our experienced NHS staff they would commit to action now to reform this punitive and unfair process, and ensure that valuable staff are recognised for their contribution to our health service and patient care.”
Professor Derek Bell OBE, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said the NHS “will face a crisis” if the pensions problem is not urgently addressed.
After Boris Johnson took over as Prime Minister, the UK Treasury announced that the system would be overhauled to give doctors greater flexibility around pensions saving.
However, critics say the proposals, due to take effect from April 2020, will not go far enough to alleviate the problems.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “It’s clear the UK Government’s changes to pensions taxation are having an impact on our NHS. As the rules regarding pensions taxation are reserved, we continue to press the UK Government to urgently resolve the situation they created.
“We highly value the contribution our NHS staff makes to Scotland’s health system and we recognise this is a serious issue for affected NHS senior clinicians.”
In September, guidance was issued for employers in England and Wales on local flexibilities that can be used within this financial year to support senior clinical staff to manage their pension accrual and potential tax liabilities.
The Scottish Government is considering implications of adopting a similar interim solution in Scotland, but “no commitment or decision has yet been made on this”.