Almost half of NHS senior staff planning to leave due to pensions crisis, report warns

Almost half of all NHS senior staff plan to leave or are considering leaving the service due to the pensions crisis, according to a new report.

A survey by NHS Providers showed 44% of board-level clinical and non-clinical staff could quit in the next two years, with doctors earning more than £110,000 a year hit by additional tax bills after pension rules were changed in 2016 to include a tapered annual allowance.

This taxation threshold restricts the amount of pension growth individuals are allowed each year before tax charges apply.

It gradually reduces the allowance for those on high incomes, meaning they are more likely to suffer an annual tax charge on contributions and a lifetime allowance tax charge on their benefits.

The tapered annual allowance means that for every £2 of income above £150,000 a year, £1 of annual allowance is lost.

Health leaders say the rules mean the NHS’s most senior and experienced staff are being pushed to leave, work part-time or refuse extra shifts, but the Government has pledged an overhaul of the system with changes flagged for the Budget in March.

NHS Providers surveyed executives of hospitals, community, ambulance and mental health services at 188 trusts, finding “widespread concerns” about the Government potentially making tax exemptions solely for clinical staff.

“The survey highlights that there would be a significant adverse impact on morale, retention and the effective running of services if non-clinicians are exempted from the solution the government has said it will announce in the Budget on 11 March,” the organisation said.

“Senior NHS non-clinical leaders have a difficult but vital role to play in supporting high-quality, frontline care for patients.”

The survey found 90% of respondents “were concerned that differential arrangements for different staff groups – for example offering a solution to senior doctors and nurses but not managers – would also create divisions and harm culture and morale”.

The Government had to come up with a fair solution “for all staff affected by these punitive taxes,” NHS Providers’ deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said.

“Without urgent action, we face the possibility of an exodus of NHS leaders, at a time when the need for their experience, skills and commitment has never been greater.”

A YouGov survey commissioned by the Royal College of Surgeons reported in October that 68% of consultant surgeons in England were considering early retirement because of the pensions tax situation.

One surgeon surveyed at the time said the crisis was “the biggest threat to the NHS at present, much greater than Brexit”.

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