TWEAKS to our tax system can often have unintended consequences.

Back in 2015, the then Chancellor, George Osborne tinkered with pension savings so they could no longer exceed an annual cap without penalties. Nowhere has this been more keenly felt than in our NHS.

In exchange for volunteering to work weekend overtime, senior hospital doctors have reportedly received unexpected bills from the taxman ranging from £18,000 to £100,000.

Unsurprisingly, rather than breach their allowances, most are now not exceeding their hours.

Consequently, the operating lists, which usually build up in the winter, to be cleared in the summer, are stagnating.

NHS data for April shows 4.3 million patients awaiting surgery and the percentage of those treated within 18 weeks at the lowest level on record.

Alarmingly, this week, hospitals reported a 50 per cent rise in numbers waiting for routine operations and, with doctors refusing to work until the tax regime is changed, there’s no relief in sight. Many GPs are reacting similarly.

Nor is the situation limited to doctors.

Back in March, I warned, along with Eugine Yafele, the excellent new CEO of Dorset Healthcare University NHS Trust, that these pension rules were forcing older, more experienced staff, including nurses and administrators, to retire early. A BMA survey only confirms this.

It is bonkers that our tax system should act as a strong disincentive to work.

Clearly, any new Chancellor needs to review these matters urgently and I told Treasury minister Elizabeth Truss that in the House on Monday.

She replied that the Government would consult the BMA and others, but that reforms to the tax system “have to be properly worked through”.

For millions of patients, and for our hard-pressed NHS, those reforms cannot come soon enough.