The health secretary Steve Barclay has been caught out by Full Fact – twice – over claims about NHS consultants. It comes as the NHS prepares for more strikes. Full Fact exposed that Barclay not only lied over pensions, but he repeatedly plucked figures seemingly out of thin air as well.
NHS consultants: everybody out
As the Canary‘s Maryam Jameela previously reported, consultants who are British Medical Association (BMA) members took strike action in July over pay. As Jameela wrote, consultants walked out for two days on 20 and 21 July, making this:
only the third time the senior specialist doctors have taken industrial action.
Little wonder they’re striking. As Jameela wrote:
The BMA says take-home pay has fallen by 35% since 2008. The consultants… earn annual salaries of around £88,000-£119,000
So July’s action caused serious disruption – which, as Jameela said, was the point. NHS medical director Stephen Powis said:
This could undoubtedly be the most severe impact we have ever seen in the NHS as a result of industrial action, with routine care virtually at a standstill for 48 hours.
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Consultants will not only stop seeing patients themselves, but they won’t be around to provide supervision over the work of junior doctors, which impacts thousands of appointments for patients.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said a pay offer for consultants of 6% for 2023-24 was “final” and that industrial action was hampering efforts to cut waiting lists.
It’s unsurprising the Tories are shifting the blame for waiting lists onto NHS staff, given record NHS waiting times are actually their fault. Just to continue this manipulative theme, Barclay has been making some interesting statements in the media – which Full Fact has ripped apart:
Speaking on the BBC R4 Today programme, health secretary Steve Barclay claimed NHS consultants receive tax-free pensions.
This is incorrect. Pensions for consultants are subject to the same tax rules that apply to all pensioners. https://t.co/8ytuIetZpR
— Full Fact (@FullFact) August 16, 2023
Lying: all in a day’s work for Barclay
First, on Monday 14 August Barclay claimed on BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme that:
Consultants, when they retire now at 65, will get a tax-free pension of £73,000 a year
This is literally a lie – or a mistake, if you’re a Tory and/or feeling generous. As Full Fact noted:
This is incorrect, as pensions are considered a form of income and are therefore subject to tax rules like other forms of income. This means tax is due on any sum above an individual’s personal allowance.
Then, Barclay has also been bandying around figures over just how much NHS consultants’ pensions are worth a year. He told:
- BBC Radio 4 Today it was £73,000.
- The Sunday Times it was “£60,000-plus”.
- Mail Online £78,000.
Again, Full Fact had to correct this, saying the BMA told it:
it was “misleading” to suggest the figure of £73,000 was typical, as “pensions are highly individual and will depend on factors such as retirement age, working patterns etc.”
The BMA did a spicy Twitter thread on it, too:
This is categorically not true, and we expect him to issue an urgent correction. Here's why 🧵 (1/5)
— BMA Consultants (@BMA_Consultants) August 14, 2023
Overall, Full Fact noted that:
If an MP makes a false or misleading claim on broadcast media they should take responsibility for ensuring it is appropriately corrected, and make efforts to ensure the correction is publicly available to anyone who might have heard the claim
As of 3pm on Wednesday 16 August, Barclay has not done this – not that anyone should expect him to. Recent Tory governments have perhaps been the most vicious and mendacious in recent memory. Barclay lying and making up figures, to manipulate the public into not supporting striking workers, is par for the course.Support us and go ad-free
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