Jon Restell: "We strongly oppose what the DHSC is planning."
The government’s plans to restrict new flexibilities in NHS pensions to senior clinicians are “wrong and unfair”, Managers in Partnership chief executive Jon Restell said today, pointing out that they undermine the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC’s) stated desire to build HR policies serving the whole workforce.
The DHSC announced on Monday that it intends to consult on proposals to offer senior clinicians a new pensions option, allowing them to build their pensions pot more steadily throughout their career – and thus to avoid the unexpected tax bills currently hitting many clinical and non-clinical NHS leaders. MiP recently explored this problem in an article, revealing that some senior leaders are having to remortgage their homes and others are leaving the NHS pension scheme completely.
“We strongly oppose what the DHSC is planning,” Jon Restell said. “It must include all staff in any future flexibility. Excluding senior managers, support staff and junior clinical staff is wrong, unfair and undermines the new positive focus on the whole NHS workforce. We will press hard for the equalities impact assessment of any proposals.
“The 50-50 option touted by the Department is unlikely to do the job for anyone in any case. I doubt senior doctors will see it as the answer to annual allowance charges.
“The proposed new compact with senior leaders in the interim NHS People Plan is off to a very bad start. The plan has a heavy emphasis on improving the diversity of senior leadership in the NHS, and this is also likely to be impacted by these measures. Also, where is the DHSC evidence that pensions tax doesn’t affect recruitment and retention of managers? The board vacancy rate in the trusts most in need of permanent leaders is well-documented. These recruitment problems are a major threat to patient care. It would be helpful for NHS Improvement to say what it thinks.
“This focus on retention issues is far too narrow. Pension flexibilities are more about the long-term sustainability of the NHS pension scheme. Ultimately the Treasury could sort this out by changing the tax policy that penalises employees in defined benefit pension schemes.”
For more on the problems in the existing NHS pension scheme, read our article. The Interim NHS People Plan, which contains the government’s new proposals, was published on Monday.