That is exactly right. I asked for a Treasury Minister to reply to this debate, because the underlying legislation is a Treasury issue, but it is important to have a Health Minister here today to hear at first hand the stories that are being raised by MPs.
In recent months, it has become increasingly apparent that the pension tax rules are resulting in unexpected tax charges being levied on a large number of GPs, senior doctors, surgeons and consultants right across the UK. I believe that if the issue is not addressed, serious capacity gaps in the NHS will only be made worse.
In Scotland, 7.6% of consultant posts are vacant, and more than half of those have been vacant for more than six months. There is a similar picture in the NHS in all other parts of the United Kingdom. In a recent survey by the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, more than 40% of the doctors questioned said that pension taxation changes had led them to change their plans and retire earlier than expected.
The way in which the tapered annual allowance operates means a significantly reduced annual allowance ceiling is hitting many of the NHS professionals that I, and Jim Shannon, mentioned in their mid to late careers. As their entire income is taken into account for the purposes of tapering, the threshold can be breached even by doing non-pensionable work, including covering for absent colleagues, extra programmed activities or waiting list initiatives. NHS staff on pay-as-you-earn cannot avoid the notional pension input amount calculation. As a result, many consultants are being hit with unexpected five-figure tax charges. A number are now dropping extra work, turning down hours or going part-time to negate or avoid the penalties.
Of course high earners should pay their fair share, and all the doctors who have contacted me want to do so, but they are paying rates of more than 60% as a result of the taper. Some are paying effective rates of more than 100%. Many consultants who continue to do non-pensionable overtime are effectively paying the Government to go to work, while receiving no additional pension benefit.