Am I the only one who is baffled by the media sympathetically lapping up the story that senior individuals in the medical profession won’t work additional hours or are considering quitting because the tax on the extra pension rights they are building up means they have less immediate take-home pay ?

The “problem” is the limit of £10,000 on the additional pension rights which people who are very high earners can accrue each year .The proposed solution is to restore that limit to its previous level of £40,000 and, hey presto, all the doctors keep working. The same malaise is apparently causing problems in the upper echelons of the civil service, police and even teaching.

So often with pensions problems are misdiagnosed, and the solutions proposed are nearly always another dollop of taxpayers money. When a Government does the right thing and, for example, increases womens’ retirement age to match mens’ the result is screaming – pensions are a tricky and very expensive issue , around £100bn a year for the UK as a whole and rising rapidly.The cost of tax relief on pensions is now over £40bn a year.

Something has to give. The Labour party’s stance is that public sector pensions can’t be touched. The Scottish Government obviously feels the same way because every time it has a chance to grasp this particular nettle it runs away. The UK Conservative Government is no better – its predecessor gave people pension freedom but it is now so busy with Brexit that difficult issues like pensions are crowded off its plate.

Going back to the doctors, the real issue is not that they need more tax relief, it’s that their absurdly generous pension arrangement needs to end. Any immediate tax pain they feel is outweighed by the increase in value of their pension entitlement – in effect deferred pay.

Why should taxpayers as a whole provide more generous tax relief to anybody who receives an income of more than £150,000 a year. Is it nice? Yes. Do people like it? They love it but that’s not the point. A Government needs to take some brave pills and make the system on tax relief for pensions do what it should do, rather than what it does now.

Tax relief in general should either be given because an individual is doing something which is beneficial for the country as a whole , the Enterprise Investment Scheme which gives individuals tax relief to invest in start-up companies is an example, or which saves the state money over the long term - and this is the test which pension tax relief currently fails.

The bulk of pension tax relief goes to those who are already wealthy and will be comfortable in old age. At the same time the number of people who are of pensionable age is rising rapidly and most are not wealthy at all – many live in poverty or near poverty. The main reasons why that is so is because the State pension is low and they have no savings.

Auto-enrolment into workplace pension schemes is one of the most sensible things any recent Government has done but the amounts individuals and their employers put in is in the great majority of cases not enough . The pension tax relief currently lavished on the well off should instead be directed towards providing direct incentives for those who struggle to save , by topping up what they save themselves so that the total will provide a decent income in retirement and by doing so reduce the strain on taxpayers in the long run.

Highly paid people lucky enough to be in final salary schemes should have their pensionable salary capped so doing overtime won’t result in them paying extra tax. Sorry Doc.

Guy Stenhouse is a Scottish financial sector veteran who wrote formerly as Pinstripe.