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By Wesleyan

Help for healthcare? Unpacking the Autumn budget for doctors

4 min
Male medical professional in office with paperwork and pen

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt used his budget to announce a two-pronged approach to healthcare, focused on achieving efficiency savings while also boosting budgets.

That includes a review of NHS staffing requirements over the next 15 years to help fill vacancies including doctors, nurses and other professionals.

The NHS workforce plan will look at all aspects of recruitment, retention and productivity and will report back next year. A further initiative will investigate how to drive efficiency in Integrated Care Boards.

At the same time, the NHS budget will increase in each of the next two years by an extra £3.3bn to help with rising prices.

But there was no action to address pressing pension issues in the sector, chiefly around the £1 million Lifetime Allowance. That has seen doctors who are approaching the end of their careers reduce their hours or retire early to avoid extra tax charges.

The Allowance is currently frozen until 2025 and Alec Collie, Head of Medical at Wesleyan Group says the lack of action will only exacerbate current issues.

He said: “Clinicians are already struggling with the Lifetime Allowance and Annual Allowance limits which are creating a perverse situation where going above and beyond for patients by taking on additional hours can put them at risk of receiving staggering tax bills.

“Government has long hinted at reforms to improve the situation and the lack of action today is disappointing. Those tempted to pull out of the scheme to avoid charges should be careful as it could result in a diminished retirement pot and the loss of valuable benefits.”

And the decision to freeze the basic and higher rate Income Tax thresholds until 2028 will erode real wages in the sector.

In normal times, thresholds to go up every year in line with inflation to help protect earnings, but the decision means more workers will pay more tax, even as prices continue to rise.

The Chancellor also reduced the level at which the 45% additional rate of Income Tax kicks in from £150,000 to £125,140, which will likely impact some senior clinicians.

Alec added: “Freezing the basic and higher rate Income Tax bands is a stealth tax that will hit many working in the sector. Coupled with high inflation, it means people will have less in their pockets in real terms.

“We know that some are having to dip into their savings and pensions to cover living costs, but this should be done carefully and, if possible, with financial advice as it can have a significant impact on future retirement plans.

“Higher earners are also facing higher tax bills as the threshold for the 45p tax rate is reduced. This is a move that won’t make much money for the Treasury’s coffers but means less disposable income for higher earners which will do nothing to help a move into recession."

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