Northern Ireland

British Medical Association: Doctors union in NI welcomes government proposals

A doctor stands on a hospital ward. He is wearing a stethoscope around his neck and red theatre scrubs. Image copyright PA
Image caption A BMA survey found 45% of consultants intended to reduce their working hours because of the taxation

The British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland has welcomed UK government proposals to end a row with doctors over pensions.

The proposals come after many doctors reduced their working hours to avoid paying extra tax on overtime pay.

The reduction in overtime work has been linked to a recent increase in waiting list times.

Dr Anne Carson, from the BMA in NI, said it was not yet confirmed how the changes will affect local doctors.

"We nonetheless welcome this announcement as a first step in the right direction for a medical workforce that is already stretched to the limit," she said.

The government says the plan will allow doctors complete flexibility when it comes to reducing their pension contributions to avoid breaching the annual tax-free allowance.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The BMA in Northern Ireland has welcomed the proposals.

It will also allow doctors to be given the contributions the employer would have made, meaning pay packets could be boosted by thousands of pounds annually.

The Treasury also has agreed to look at how public sector workers are taxed on their pensions to see if the rules can be relaxed.

Dr Carson added that the BMA looked forward to "hearing more detail" on how the proposals will affect local doctors and "hope to continue working with the Northern Ireland Department of Health on resolving the pensions issue".

The BBC has asked the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to comment.

Nick Stones, a pensions law expert at global law firm Pinsent Masons, said indications were that "it is most likely the proposed scheme will not automatically apply to Northern Ireland".

"Both health and social services and pensions are transferred matters devolved to the NI Assembly, so in the absence of an NI Executive, this matter would likely be added to the long list of policy issues awaiting its restoration."

However, he added, if there were changes to the annual tax-free allowance then "there would be an argument to suggest that the plans would include Northern Ireland" as taxation is the responsibility of Westminster.

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