Leading doctors have warned that the NHS is “in danger of complete collapse” after a poll revealed that more than two in five of the most senior hospital medics are planning to leave the NHS in the next year.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said the NHS is “at breaking point” and called for immediate government action.
It comes after a poll found that 44% of hospital consultants in England plan to leave, or take a break from working in the NHS, over the next year.
Among consultant surgeons, this figure was 50%.
The BMA survey of almost 8,000 consultants suggested pay and pension tax arrangements were some of the reasons they planned to leave.
Meanwhile nine in 10 consultants said this year’s pay rise of 4.5%, was “inadequate” or “completely unacceptable”.
The BMA said “punitive” rules on pension taxation have led to a tripling of doctors taking early retirement in the last 13 years, with the average retirement age now 59.
Dr Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA consultants committee, said: “The NHS is already at breaking point and cannot afford to lose any of its staff, never mind facing the prospect of losing nearly half of its most senior doctors.
“Not only will this have a very significant adverse impact on patient care, this loss of doctors will simply result in increased pressure on those staff who remain in the workforce, further increasing the risk of burnout.
“After years of demoralising real-terms pay cuts and chronic staffing shortages, the NHS and its staff are on their knees.
“The government must urgently demonstrate that it values the medical workforce by taking steps to restore doctors’ pay. The government must also urgently address the pension tax trap that is forcing doctors to reduce their hours and take early retirement to avoid being unfairly taxed on their pensions."
Without action, the "NHS is in danger of complete collapse" as the "goodwill of staff" has depleted, Dr Sharma said.
Dr Sharma continued: “Our hospitals are full with patients left in corridors for hours and sometimes even days; ambulances are frequently unable to attend to emergencies in the community as they are stuck waiting to offload patients to emergency departments that are unable to take them; patients are waiting months and even years to access the treatment that they need with many more suffering in silence that haven’t yet made it on to a waiting list.
“This is not the NHS that our patients deserve or that our staff signed up to work in.
“The NHS is at breaking point and unless the government acts it will collapse completely.
“We urge the government to come to the table and talk to consultants about the changes that are needed before it is too late to stop the drain of doctors from the NHS.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The Health and Social Care Secretary is focused on delivering for patients and has set out her four priorities of A, B, C, D – reducing ambulance delays, busting the Covid backlogs, improving care and increasing the number of doctors and dentists.
“In the past year we have seen record numbers of hospital doctors working in the NHS and there are over 3,500 more full-time equivalent staff than a year ago.
“The NHS pension scheme provides generous retirement benefits for hardworking staff and Our Plan for Patients sets out new pension flexibilities to encourage our most experienced clinicians to stay or return to practice.”
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