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RCS survey on the NHS pension scheme

07 Nov 2019

Surgeon's pension crisis

Following changes to the NHS pension scheme, we have been troubled by reports that surgeons were reducing their hours or retiring early, with a knock-on effect on waiting times for planned surgery.

The introduction of a taper in the NHS pension scheme in April 2016 meant that growth in income and pension benefits can be taxed repeatedly, sometimes generating bills that are larger than the amount being taxed.

We commissioned YouGov to survey our members to understand the scale of the problem. 1,890 members took part in our survey, which ran for a week in October 2019.

The full report includes a breakdown of survey respondents by specialty, case studies from across the country and in-depth statistics.

Worrying findings

Our survey reveals that 69% of consultant surgeons have reduced the amount of time they have spent working in the NHS as a direct result of changes to pension taxation rules. This coincides with a period of rising and record waiting lists for planned operations.

In addition, our survey shows that 68% of consultant surgeons are considering early retirement because of the new pension arrangements.

Impact on waiting lists

Tackling the waiting list backlog has traditionally been achieved through ‘waiting list initiatives’, whereby surgeons take on extra shifts beyond the usual five-day week, often during weekends.

However, our survey reports that 61% of consultant surgeons have received professional or financial advice to refrain from taking part in NHS waiting list reduction initiatives, for fear of receiving large tax bills.

One RCS member surveyed said: “This is crippling the NHS, stopping consultants from taking in extra work to prevent waiting lists building up. Given current staffing shortages, signing up for extra lists has been an essential way of managing the staffing shortage in order to keep the NHS functioning.”

Urgent action is needed

With a record 4.41 million people on the NHS waiting list in England, we are seriously concerned that the current situation will cause waiting lists for planned surgery to deteriorate further, especially as winter pressure sets in.

With so many consultant surgeons reducing their operating hours or planning to retire early, we urge the Government to act fast to resolve the issue.

Download the full report

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