Changes to pension tax legislation in the UK have significantly increased pressure on the paediatric workforce, according to the results of a member survey by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).
In a survey of 715 paediatricians in the UK, more than half (56.5%) of respondents said they have changed their working practices to avoid incurring unexpected tax bills.
Among RCPCH members, 59% of respondents think that pension related tax bills have led to a reduction in paediatric services and 79% said that they are likely to retire earlier because of this issue. Respondents cited increased waiting list times, closed wards, cancelled clinics, poor morale, and concerns around patient safety.
Around one third of respondents have already been issued with a pension related tax bill and the average value of the bill is between £10,000 and £20,000, with many totalling over £50,000. The majority of respondents (79%) could not easily find out if they are liable for a pension related tax bill.
In 2016, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne introduced new legislation on pension savings. A reduction in pension tax relief for high earners was designed to bring in more money for the Government without causing financial harm to the majority of the public.
The complexity of the rules around pension tax relief, however, has had serious and sometimes life changing consequences for many people working in the NHS. As such, a policy that was intended to only affect a minority is exacerbating workforce shortages within the health service and impacting on the healthcare of the entire UK population.
It goes without saying that neither me nor my colleagues have a problem with paying our fair share. We are public servants and believe passionately in the NHS. But it stings to be handed an astronomical and unexpected bill, incurred as a strange form of punishment for career advancement and picking up extra shifts to help carry some of the rota pressures we all face.