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Doctors are being financially punished for working overtime

With more medical staff turning down extra shifts, NHS waiting lists are growing.

How much would someone have to pay you to work an extra day a week? If you’re currently working full-time, consider yourself well-paid, and enjoy having free time to do whatever you want, the answer is probably “a lot”. So you can probably understand why the NHS offering some staff overtime shifts that pay them less than usual and take money out of their pensions hasn’t gone down well. In fact, so many doctors are currently refusing to do extra work that it’s pushed patient waiting lists up by 50 percent in some parts of the UK.

The rubbish pay situation isn’t because of the NHS itself but because of some complicated pensions rules. Ready for some thrilling pension-pot talk? Let’s go. Basically, the government wants to encourage Brits to squirrel more of their money away so they can retire more comfortably (the State Pension is about £7k a year, half of what you’d make at a full-time minimum wage job). And one of the ways they do this is by not charging tax on any retirement savings. As most workers in the UK currently give the government 20-45 percent of their salary as income tax, that’s a pretty good deal.

But if there were no restrictions to how much pension money you could save tax-free, rich people (particularly those close to retirement age) would have an incentive to put loads of their spare cash into retirement saving accounts. The government would then have less tax money to spend on things like schools and hospitals. So to stop that, it sets limits on how much money you can put aside tax-free. If you earn less than £40k, you can only put in as much as you make each year (so you can’t, say, sell your house and put those savings in). The limit is then £40k until you earn over £150k, at which point your tax-free allowance goes down and down until you hit £210k, where you get no tax relief whatsoever.

Got it? Good. Back to the NHS overtime problem. Highly-paid specialists like heart surgeons are finding that working more is upping their income so much that it’s landing them with big tax bills and making it more expensive to fill up their pension pots. Many are concluding it’s not worth it, especially considering overtime also means sacrificing their weekends and time with their loved ones.

The NHS could solve this by paying these specialists significantly more money (£900 a shift has been mooted). But many people would have a problem with this considering that (a) the NHS is currently struggling to fund services to poor and vulnerable people and (b) it's generally considered right that high earners are taxed more. At the same time, longer waiting times mean more patients remaining in pain and risking worsening symptoms. As with many things in economics, there is no easy answer.

Read our explainer on: what motivates us to work.

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Reader Comments

  • WhereAreTheVikings

    What a terrible, terrible shame. Western Civilization nurtured capitalism, and now capitalism is destroying it. And these young people seem to welcome the invasion of their homeland. The media and schools have been very efficient in wiping out all traces of blood and soil.

    • prollawalllynotahumanoid

      Capitalism isn’t the problem. It’s corrupt politicians taking bribes and kickbacks from Globalists and the Chinese.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        Maybe I should have said crony capitalism. Although Italians importing Chinese to make “Italian leather” shoes is not crony capitalism. It is capitalism, pure and simple.

        • prollawalllynotahumanoid

          That would be crony capitalism and globalism combined. They aren’t concerned with the affect their policies have upon their citizens, the health and welfare of their society and culture or their economy. What it isn’t is fair-free trade to further national interests.

          • WhereAreTheVikings

            I’ve always seen them as one and the same, but perhaps they need to be named individually, just to bring home the point.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        But now that travel is so easy and borders are virtually down through H1bs and the like, theoretically you can’t blame capitalists for the pursuit of cheaper labor, although I do heartily blame them not being more patriotic than that. Perhaps the emerging nationalism will force them to voluntarily do what they should have morally been doing all along, and that is employing business practices that preserve their countries and nationalities. The government should be doing everything it can to encourage that, to the extent that small government should do anything but guard the borders and strictly, drastically, limit immigration.

      • Henry Lam

        It is China with its corrupted mindset affecting the world.

        • prollawalllynotahumanoid

          No it is not. Capitalism is the fairest and least corrupt system of all.

          Socialism and communism is based on authoritarianism, coercion and police intimidation. It has and always will be rife with criminality, bribes and kickbacks.

          Corruption can be anywhere but it is the very basis of socialism and communism.

    • Henry Lam

      The government is too weak. They do not understand the mindset of communists and how they educate their people. Those communist people are only loyal to their country and could be dangerous. The immigration law should only accept those who accepted multiculturalism and taught from a democratic education system. This virus events clearly has shown how stupid to take China as a friend.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        The government is not too weak. Just weak-minded about some things.

  • Gabi Rodrigues

    For how many days can a country maximum close their borders to foreigners maximum? Like now, with the virus, everyone is using 30 days. Can it be more?