Senior doctors were reportedly cancelling their retirements this week after a major intervention from chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
In his Budget on Wednesday, Hunt abolished the tax-free cap on the lifetime pensions allowance: a move primarily aimed at NHS consultants who have been leaving because the pension rules mean it is not worth them carrying on.
Hunt said the changes would “stop over 80% of NHS doctors from receiving a tax charge” and incentivise “our most experienced and productive workers to stay in work for longer”.
It was a measure which even won praise from the British Medical Association (BMA) - a rare occurrence - whose pensions spokesman Dr Vishal Sharma said “we’ve already had lots of people contacting us saying they want to cancel their retirements”.
It was criticised in other quarters because it benefits already-wealthy workers, but Hunt argued it would reduce the £3bn a year spent on agency staff in the NHS.
His move comes as GPs across the country are facing “insurmountable pressures”, according to a Royal College of GPs (RCGP) report released last week.
Doctors’ huge workloads come against a backdrop of massive waiting times for many patients. And a Yahoo News UK analysis of NHS data has revealed that in three parliamentary constituency areas in England, a quarter of patients have to wait more than two weeks for a GP appointment after booking.
Those areas are Hexham (26.3%), Sheffield Central (25.6%) and Mid Dorset and North Poole (25.0%). See the bottom of this page for a list of the 50 areas where patients wait the longest for a GP appointment.
This contrasts with the three areas where patients have the shortest wait after booking: Southampton Itchen (2.8% waiting for more than two weeks), Slough (2.8%) and Kensington (2.9%).
The RCGP report had suggested one in four staff fear their practice is in danger of closing because of unmanageable workloads and rising demand.
The document said general practice is “in crisis” and “without a functioning primary care service, the NHS will fail”. It called on the government to do more to retain staff.
A previous RCGP poll of GPs found 39% were seriously considering leaving the profession within the next five years. This could mean more than 22,000 GPs leaving the workforce, the college has previously estimated.
In the latest poll, 27% of 2,649 UK general practice staff surveyed between December and January said their practice was at risk of closing.
Nine in 10 of this group said the reasons were unmanageable workload and rising demand, while others expressed concerns about staff leaving the sector.
The 50 areas of England with the highest percentage of patients waiting more than two weeks for an appointment after booking
Sheffield Central: 25.57
Mid Dorset and North Poole: 25.00
Hornchurch and Upminster: 24.26
Sheffield South East: 22.94
Barnsley Central: 22.80
South Derbyshire: 22.63
Colne Valley: 22.23
Forest of Dean: 21.37
Leeds North West: 21.21
North West Leicestershire: 21.16
East Yorkshire: 21.12
Dagenham and Rainham: 20.81
North Norfolk: 20.74
Brentwood and Ongar: 20.52
Arundel and South Downs: 20.33
Milton Keynes South: 19.80
Sheffield, Hallam: 19.78
South Northamptonshire: 19.49
Rayleigh and Wickford: 19.36
Maidstone and The Weald: 19.17
Norwich South: 19.08
Norwich North: 19.07
Oldham West and Royton: 19.04
South Dorset: 19.01
Derbyshire Dales: 18.94
Isle of Wight: 18.73
North East Derbyshire: 18.71
Rutland and Melton: 18.65
South Norfolk: 18.36
Tunbridge Wells: 18.34
South East Cambridgeshire: 18.24