Doctors’ pension row spreads to other arms of the public sector

The government’s attempts to resolve the crisis that has seen doctors refuse to take on extra shifts – or even opt for early retirement – because of pension tax rules are at risk of backfiring. Other public sector workers have now begun to demand similar concessions.

Ministers had hoped that reforms to the NHS Pension Scheme would help solve a growing staffing crisis in the health service partly caused by senior doctors choosing not to work more because of the impact on their tax bills.

The changes should mean fewer doctors are caught out by the tapered pension allowance, which reduces the contributions that higher earners may make to pension schemes; it also levies high tax charges on those who exceed their allowances.

However, the changes have now prompted calls from senior public servants in other professions for similar treatment. For instance, the Forces Pension Society, which represents the interests of members of the armed forces, has told ministers that many senior soldiers are being caught out in the same way as doctors.

Representatives of police and fire chiefs have made similar statements. The spreading row will increase the pressure on the Treasury to consider more fundamental pension reforms. These may include scrapping the tapered allowance altogether.