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Nurses asked for views on working till 68


Nurses are being asked for evidence of the impact of working into their late 60s, as part of a major review that could have implications for early retirement opportunities for some in the profession.

The Public Service Pensions Act 2013, passed in April, linked NHS retirement to the new state pension, meaning the retirement age will increase to 66 by 2020, 67 by 2036 and 68 by 2046.

As part of the agreement to the change, unions negotiated a commitment from the government to review the impact on NHS employees of working longer.

The Working Longer Review Group, which includes representatives from the unions, the Department of Health and NHS Employers, has been meeting since the autumn and this week launched a call for evidence.

The group is seeking views on topics including what makes it easier or more difficult for healthcare staff to work longer and the impact of flexible working policies. It is also exploring whether employers could be required to make increased pension contributions for groups of staff in particularly demanding roles – allowing them to retire early without having a reduced pension.

In light of this, the group is seeking evidence on which parts of the workforce faced particular challenges in working longer.

Unison head of nursing Gail Adams told Nursing Times it was important for nurses, healthcare staff, as there was a lack of NHS specific evidence on the effects of working longer.

She said: “This is a warts and all call for evidence to find out what is happening out there and what employers are doing to help people work longer.”

A literature review by academics at the University of Bath, commissioned by the review group, concluded that healthy older people with up-to-date skills “perform as well as their younger counterparts”. 

However, it found many NHS employees left the service before pensionable age to work for other employers that offered more flexible hours. It warned this could lead to staff shortages if the trend continued as the workforce aged.

Shift working was a major driver of people choosing to work outside the NHS, the report said, with individuals preferring to work fewer hours over a “down shift” to roles with fewer responsibilities.

It suggested phased retirement, with more opportunities for flexible working could be a solution, and that a more preventative approach to musculo-skeletal and mental health problems could reduce their prevalence in older workers.

Royal College of Nursing senior employment relations adviser Gerry O’Dwyer told Nursing Times his “biggest anxiety” was whether the NHS had the capacity to ensure the necessary changes to job design and work patterns happened in time.

He added: “The NHS has very little experience of people working beyond 60, never mind up to 66, 67 or 68.”

The call for evidence runs until 5 September. Findings will be fed into the final report of the Working Longer Review, which will make recommendations to NHS Staff Council and the DH.

Gill Bellord, director of employment relations and reward at NHS Employers, said it was important the call for evidence collected the views of as many different groups as possible.

“It is really important that employment practice enables staff to work successfully and productively at all ages”.


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Readers' comments (58)

  • I'm 24 have been qualified for 3 years and am already exhausted from working on a high pressure ward. I am now leaving to work in a more steady environment.Already I am experiencing health problems both mentally and physically I am shattered. In the last year I have had weekly sessions with both counselling and physiotherapy. If I stayed on this ward I would not last till 30 never mind 60 or 68.

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  • I worked on the wards for over 30 years but now work in Education. When I trained in the early 70's as a male nurse I was used as a hoist. Consequently my body has been wrecked since the age of about 50 -55. I know some people are lucky and remain fit into their 60's but doing ward work at 68 do me a favour!

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  • Anonymous | 24-Jun-2013 11:06 am

    it is not always easy to find jobs in more steady environments. maybe you have been lucky. right place right time. those working in high pressure environments may not all want to stay there for very long
    because of personal, health or other issues which could create a shortage and high competition for other jobs.


    what happens to nurses who are unable to work until 68? will they be able to claim benefits until they can claim their pension if they are unable to get another job elsewhere or even outside nursing? would this not cost the state more than letting nurses retire earlier on their pension?

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  • Gordon makes a very good point about cumulative damage to our bodies due to poor (by today's standards) moving & handling techniques people's ability to actually function safely in their mid to late 60s. Luckily I have done my time on the wards and have a less physically demanding role in Education.

    Another question is what is the impact going to be on Mental Health Officer status where RMNs on ye olde pension plan can currently retire at 55 with a full pension (every year over 20 years service counts double)?

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  • In November last year, a friend of mine retired with full MHO pension status at the age of 55. Two weeks later, she was back (by choice) working with the same NHS team in a slightly different job for two days a week, keeping her hours down to avoid affecting her pension entitlement.

    I am only several years younger than her, am a general nurse and have worked in acute, busy, stressful environments since I qualified. I have made the same amount in contributions as she has and have worked just as hard, if not harder than she has. (she admits this herself). I cannot retire until I am well into my 60s. The promises made to my friend when she signed up for her pension have been kept, which is right and proper. However, they have not been honoured in my case. I should have been entitled to my full pension at age 60, already 5 years behind a nurse of the same age with MHO status.

    We need to be really careful about who is selected for some kind of protected status otherwise this type of unfairness will continue. The fairest thing here would be to protect the status of ALL nurses in the same way that police and fire fighters are recognised for the job that they do. If nurses are in 'softer' roles and /or feel that they want to carry on, then that should be accomodated.

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  • I am amazed that the whole country has not been up in arms about the ever increasing pension age, I trained in the late 1970's and without a shadow of doubt, as much as I enjoy my job, I know that I could not be effective at 68! We all slow down and even now in my mid 50's I am tired after a shift, both physically and mentally. I too developed spinal problems due no doubt to the moving and handling techniques we were taught back then, I have had surgery for this recently, and am thankfully able to continue working, but until the age of 68? Oh what a prospect! I hope not.

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  • Tinkerbell

    what a circus it will be, knock kneed and knackered.

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  • could it also be patients don't want such elderly nurses looking after them? has anybody asked their opinion?

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  • Thank you Tinkerbell, you took the words out of my false teeth

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 24-Jun-2013 2:19 pm

    I'm wondering about this - surely there should be a study of the potential impact on patient safety and service provision, of extending the working life of nurses, before it happens ?

    Then, if someone objects to the conclusions, and we get a few 'an elderly nurse dropped my nan' stories, we could have a review of the study/issue, then arguments between MPs before anything changes: that should slow it down by a couple of decades.

    After all, Hunt has made it very clear - patient safety comes first, so surely the goverment wouldn't object to people asking the question 'will an elderly nursing workforce be dangerous to patients' and getting some proper evidence ?

    My final word in this one - they are clearly going to do it, anyway: whether they honestly expect nurses to work into their late 60s, or merely expect to save some money on pensions paid, is an interesting question, however.

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