At a time when the National Health Service is faced with growing staff shortages, senior and highly experienced GPs and hospital doctors in the North East are cutting back on their work or leaving the profession entirely.
This is partly because of stress and an ever-increasing workload, but is also because of the current damaging tax and pension regulations, which severely penalise them for working longer hours.
The current lifetime and annual allowance pension limits are resulting in large and often unexpected financial burdens for the most senior and experienced of doctors.
And the problems are made worse if these doctors work more hours, to try to reduce patient waiting lists for example.
The knock-on effect on patient care in the North East, as well as the impact on the junior doctors, whom these experienced doctors help to train to be our consultants of the future, cannot be underestimated.
Recent research from the British Medical Association (BMA) shows that six out of 10 consultants intend to retire before or at the age of 60.
It also shows that only 6.5 per cent of consultants expect to remain working after the age of 65, citing the pension regulations as a key driver for this decision.
A situation where the Government talks about increasing productivity in secondary care while at the same time allowing extreme financial pressure on its most experienced doctors to force them to do less work and, in some cases, to leave the NHS when they do not want to, is clearly untenable.
The BMA Consultants Committee has written to both the Chancellor and the Health Minister highlighting the serious implications of this for the NHS.
And it has called for the removal of the annual and lifetime allowance cap for public sector workers.
We also called for the introduction of a national policy for health trusts to begin recycling employer pension contributions to members who have already left the scheme entirely to offset the powerful disincentives that are forcing our consultants to reduce and stop work.
Dr Sunil Nodiyal,
Chairman of the Northern BMA Regional Consultants Committee Council