• Government criticised by senior managers following major pension rules announcement
  • Changes labelled as ‘crazy and unjust’ and ‘grossly unfair’
  • Calls made to increase flexibility beyond senior doctors

The government has been accused by senior NHS figures of treating managers unfairly after confirming pension changes would not apply to them.

Ministers were facing a growing backlash today over the pensions changes which are designed to stop doctors refusing extra shifts to avoid large tax bills.

Proposals announced today will allow senior doctors to set their own pension contributions alongside a review into how tax rules are impacting clinicians.

The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed non-clinical managers will not be included in the changes.

In response to criticism from senior nurses, the DHSC clarified that the consultation affects senior clinicians - including nurses.

Reactions to the news from senior managers have been critical of the government’s “divisive” approach.

Mark Brandreth, chief executive of the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, said on Twitter: “I have never felt like more of a second-class NHS citizen. An employee of 26 years treated disrespectfully by our political class.

“My tax is all paid PAYE, and yet I have over £100,000k worth of a bill.”

Neil Pease, director of workforce at  University Hospital of Derby and Burton Foundation Trust, tweeted: “Any reforms must apply to all staff not just one group. I’m sure medical colleagues and the BMA would equally not want such a division.”

Dean Royles, former chief executive of NHS Employers described the move as an ”opportunity missed not to apply the flexibility to all NHS staff not just senior clinical staff.”

Sarah Jane-Marsh, chief executive of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Foundation Trust,: said: ”My chairman is a doctor and will be outraged by anything thats “unfair” to nurses, scientists, managers.”

Catherine Pelley, chief nurse at Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: ”The pension issue is not just a [doctor] issue. This is affecting senior nurses and many managers supporting their medical colleagues. 

“Only solving the issue for one part of the NHS is divisive.”

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Stephen Duckett said: “[The new rules are] crazy and unjust. Need to treat clinical and non-clinical senior staff equitably.”

Several unions, thinktanks and lobby organisations also joined in the criticism of the government’s approach.

Chris Hopson, NHS Providers’ chief executive, welcomed the announcement adding: “It’s important that government recognises these issues don’t just affect doctors – nurses and managers are impacted too, and any solution must cover them.”

Danny Mortimer, NHS Confederation’s deputy chief executive, also supported the launch of more flexibility for members of the NHS Pension Scheme but said the Confed and NHS Employers would “continue to make the case” for flexibilities to include everyone.

Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at The King’s Fund, highlighted that health service managers have been “left out” of the plans amid high vacancy rates in various board roles.

He added: “In addition to the pension changes, solving the NHS workforce crisis will require a raft of measures, including financial incentives to attract more nurses, and ramped-up international recruitment to plug the immediate shortfall.”

Sara Gorton, head of health at union group Unison, said: “Introducing measures to help only a small proportion of the millions of active NHS scheme members looks alarmingly like the beginning of a ‘clinicians-first’ approach to the pensions strategy.

“At the other end of the pay scale, thousands of low-paid staff leave the scheme because they struggle to afford the payments.

“The government should also be paying similar attention to this problem and introduce flexibility to give staff on far lower earnings a more comfortable retirement.”