RCPCH responds to the DHSC NHS Pension Scheme consultation

The NHS pension scheme open consultation, published in December 2022 by the Department of Health and Social Care, is focussed on changes relating to new retirement flexibilities and inflationary adjustment of the annual tax allowance.
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Tackling pension taxation is necessary to alleviate growing workforce pressures and improve overall morale.

Recent workforce data show:

A sufficient paediatric workforce is required to cope with increasing service pressures and ensure provision of high-quality care. But ongoing instability caused by the NHS pension tax burden is pushing senior paediatricians to reduce their existing workload or opt for early retirement.  

The RCPCH Workforce Census demonstrated that three-quarters of respondents plan to retire before the age of 64, while a recent College survey showed that 79% of respondents are likely to retire earlier; 59% of respondents attributing reduction in paediatric services to pension-based tax bills. Given the dependence of the paediatric workforce on senior clinicians both as experts and mentors, this is particularly troubling.

President, Dr Camilla Kingdon said:

Paediatrics has always relied heavily on our senior clinical decision makers, and increasingly we need their experience and expertise for the large number of children with very complex health needs. Our senior colleagues are also our educators and leaders. We cannot afford to have disincentives to working through to a retirement age of choice.

I find it heart-breaking every time I hear of a highly experienced colleague taking early retirement for pension related reasons. This has to stop.

Officer for Workforce Planning, Dr Kay Tyerman said:

Paediatrics is a high stakes specialty that prides itself in delivering the best care for children, young people and their families. Unpredictable pension-related taxation is adversely affecting the wellbeing of paediatricians across the UK.

This punitive tax is deterring paediatricians from taking on leadership roles and forcing senior clinicians to reduce their working hours and ultimately shorten their career. This loss of expertise and manpower from the workforce will negatively impact both the delivery of patient care and the training of our future paediatricians who may be deterred from entering training or may leave the NHS workforce, choosing fairer remuneration and work life balance outside the NHS / UK.

While the consultation proposes options for both partial retirement and greater flexibility for return of recently retired doctors, it does not directly address the tax issues caused by the annual or lifetime allowance. 

The College endorses pension reform that supports the paediatric workforce in delivering high quality patient care and strongly recommends a resolution that encourages senior clinicians to remain in post at full working capacity.