Comment: Unacceptable waiting times could see a rise in clinical negligence claims

8th July 2019

Surgery waiting lists are on the rise and Senior Solicitor, Lucy Fletcher believes this is because of taxation obstacles.

Why are waiting lists so high?

The reports Consultants are not working beyond their usual hours due to unexpected tax bills is extremely concerning.  

However, if Consultants continue to decrease their time in surgery then this will only negatively impact on waiting times.

The problem has arisen as a result of changes in the taxation system.

It reduced the tax relief on pension contributions for high earners. 

The rules themselves are incredibly complex.

As a result, many Consultants are receiving unexpected tax bills.

As it stands, working over time will increase the tax contributions paid to their pension pots exceeding £40,000.

What’s the problem?

These rules do not impact on the majority of working people.

However, the highest earners can have this tax-free allowance reduced to just £10,000. 

Whilst it may be difficult to sympathise with high earning consultants, you can understand why they are reluctant to work additional shifts.

NHS staff in particular have seen these effects come into play due to their generous pension schemes.

As a result, NHS Trusts are working hard to try to increase the surgical time available.

They are unable to do so as the senior staff that are needed to keep theatres open are unwilling to work the additional hours necessary due to the increased tax they are having to pay. 

Is there a solution?

Indeed, most NHS Staff would want to cover gaps in staffing to ensure the NHS can run efficiently.

Therefore, the government must therefore act quickly to simplify the rules.

This will enable Consultants and other high earners to be able to identify whether working additional shifts are likely to result in increased tax burdens.

This may well have an impact in increasing the number of clinical negligence claims brought against the NHS as less experienced staff may have to cover shifts and procedures in the absence of the more experienced Consultants.

Similarly, it is foreseeable that this could result in unacceptable waiting times leading to deterioration in patients’ conditions. 

This could even mean patients having to undergo more complex procedures than should have been necessary if the appropriate staff had been available.

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