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Private sector nurses to be given access to NHS Pension Scheme

Nurses working in the private sector could be given access to the NHS Pension Scheme it has emerged.

A review into widening access to NHS pensions is expected to recommend all independent sector staff delivering NHS funded work could be allowed to join the scheme.

It would also make it much easier for nurses to choose to leave the NHS without fear of losing their pension benefits.

The change would remove a major competitive advantage for the NHS over private sector companies, which have struggled in the past to compete with the generous taxpayer subsidised NHS scheme.

Unions have welcomed the change, as it should give workers greater pension security and will also mean NHS trusts will have to compete with the private sector to give staff a decent working environment.

Royal College of Nursing head of employment relations Josie Irwin said the change would be “really good news and what we have all been arguing for”.

She said it would mean staff transferring to a private provider would have “security” and NHS providers “won’t be able to ride roughshod over their staff; they will need to provide a good working environment.

“This would improve mobility both out of and into the NHS,” she said.

A source close to the review group, which includes representatives from unions, NHS Employers, and the Department of Health, said there was a “coalition of the willing” to see the change brought in.

The move would apply to staff involved in clinical services delivered under an NHS contract. It would also include non-clinical staff working in a supporting role.

Private providers would pay the same 14% level of contributions as NHS organisations, with the taxpayer and employee contributing, using the system that applies for NHS employees.

Providers would need to buy an insurance or bond to safeguard pension contributions in the event they became insolvent. Mechanisms would also be needed to ensure against non-NHS staff benefitting from any change.

It is not clear whether the government would apply the new regulations to existing contracts or only to those signed after April 2013.

The review group is likely to reveal its recommendations in late September and they could be implemented as soon as April 2013 following parliamentary approval.

A source close to the review said: “We wouldn’t have got this far if the DH didn’t support [the proposal]. It achieves their aim of getting plurality in the market.

“It isn’t about weakening the NHS but about levelling the playing field,” they told Nursing Times. “It will take pensions out of the equation when it comes to the debate about private providers competing with the NHS.”

A DH spokeswoman said: “The review is due to report in the autumn, but we are clear that if access to the NHS pension scheme is extended to those in the independent sector only those who are providing NHS services and giving care to NHS patients would be eligible to join.

“This would be closely managed to maintain the integrity of the scheme,” she added.

Readers' comments (51)

  • If staff are undertaking NHS work they should be entitled to a portion of the NHS pension. All those who trained in the NHS should be entitled to a NHS pension for that time.

    If you never do any NHS work or didn't train within the NHS system then you should not be given a NHS pension.

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  • Do NHS staff looking after private patients in the NHS receive the same benefits as private staff - free laundry, free meals, free transport?

    No, didn't think so.

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  • I work in the private sector after over 20 years in the NHS and I can assure the above person we work every bit as hard often for less pay (no unsocial or BH rates) and we do not get free meals, free laundry, free transport etc. This type of stereotyping and antagonism against colleagues who choose a different arena to work in is neither professional or helpful.

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  • the greater flexibility sounds like a good idea. more contributions should mean a larger pot which should be a gain for everybody.

    any downsides should also be considered..

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  • @anonymous 24/8/12 10:26am. Free laundry, meals and transport, what? Where? Most people in the private sector enjoy the following: Pay at the equivalent of the bottom of the respective NHS band. No unsocial hours enhancements. Working time directive minimum leave. No sick pay. No automatic pay (increment) rise every year. No car user allowance, or lease/loan scheme (DN’s, HV’s, CMHN’s & Midwives do. Yes I know it isn’t much). No access to NHS Athens (MyiLibrary, EBSCO, CINAHL, NHS evidence journals etc.). No paid training except mandatory. Oh and let’s not forget: No pension!

    I for one welcome the opportunity to pay into the NHS pension scheme. It would be helpful if I could make AVC's and/or buy back the years I have missed since leaving the NHS.

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  • When I worked at a large private hospital in West London I received free meals in the restaurant, free laundry for my uniforms and taxi's home after a twilight shift.

    I didn't get any unsocial hours payments which is why I only stayed for a few months plus I prefer to work in medicine rather than surgery which they specialised in.

    I have worked in the private sector, private within the NHS and the NHS.

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  • It is so wrong to spread the NHS resources even more thinly. They will employ MORE grey suits to administer this! If people have not and do not work for the NHS they should not be part of the scheme only in proprtion to what they have contyributed.
    If the NHS should improve working terms and conditions, which in my opinion they should, this will not happen by adding to the private sector workers pensions. Get real!

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  • Wished I'd got all those freebies when I worked in the private sector! Which company was that? Certainly wasn't one of the two majors players that I worked for!
    If I'd been able to transfer my NHS pension it would have saved alot of hastle having to sort out a private pension on the early 90's and then getting caught up in the ensuing pensions debarkle. Though as I was in my late twenties at the time I was more concerned with securing a job rather than the state of my pension!

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  • BMI seem to have good benefits for staff including free health insurance, look up their site.

    The big London hospital I worked in was in Kensington, I didn't really enjoy it there, the surroundings were nice but I got a major telling off once because I dropped a sheet on the floor.

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  • Anon 11.49

    BUPA, BMI and the SPIRE group all offer pensions, sick-leave, private health insurance and life assurance to their staff.
    Some also offer free staff parking.

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  • I worked for BUPA for several years in the nineties and earned a better wage and better conditions than in the NHS (including pension). There were drawbacks and I left for clinical reasons.
    I trained in the eighties and, apart from the 3 years with BUPA, I have worked in the NHS. It should be noted that pay and conditions for NHS nurses were, for many years, below that of their colleagues in the private sector. Parity has only been reached in recent years. The 'promised' NHS pension scheme to which you contributed, was seen as some compensation and a bit of security for the otherwise, fairly crap conditions. Certainly, it was never gold-plated as this government and others would have the British public believe. That 'decent' pension scheme no longer exists.
    Personally, I think if other nurses are able to participate in the scheme, then fine. It isn't that great now and it will be a poorer amount in the future.
    I do get fed up with the public/private sector bickering. I only strengthens my belief that the government has successfully achieved the it's aim of blaming the public sector (and NOT the bankers) for ALL the financial problems of this country. We should be standing together to fight for better pensions for all public and private sector workers. Why does it have to be either/or?

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  • the idea is to offer NHS insurance which can follow the worker to employment in the private sector so that they do not have to start again which, depending on their age, may not be to their advantage and may be useful if they later return to the NHS.

    possibly the private insurances mentioned above would continue so that there is a choice.

    it would seem the greater the flexibility and transferability the more advantageous it is for employees in both sectors. but of course there is no ideal system and there will always be fault finders and complainers whatever is offered!

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  • Just one step closer to privatisation... In my opinion.

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  • Roger Hodgson
    Hit the nail on the head there mister.

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  • Roger H and redpaddys12- I share your sentiment completely

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  • What about the ex-NHS nurses who join the armed forces, become drug reps, work in schools, work overseas, work for private GPs.
    Will they also be entitled to claim NHS pensions?

    If you have to still be looking after NHS patients how many will you need to look after to qualify?

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  • Anonymous | 25-Aug-2012 12:01 pm

    ex-nhs nurses and other workers get a pension on line with the contributions they have made into the NHS sheme.

    this new idea is for a portable NHS pension that those who have worked there can take with them instead of having to start over in a new scheme. presumably, or hopefully, there will be a choice of whether they wish to continue with the NHS scheme or move into that of their new employer.

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  • Juggling Dog

    'The change would remove a major competitive advantage for the NHS over private sector companies, which have struggled in the past to compete with the generous taxpayer subsidised NHS scheme.'

    If you believe this, then were private-sector nurses allowed to enter the 'generous taxpayer subsidised NHS scheme' then the next thing along would be, presumably:

    1) we are diverting taxpayers' money to private companies (via this 'generous pension scheme');

    2) they would then remove that 'anomaly' by making the NHS scheme 'less generous'.

    Or am I being cynical ? (only scanned the article, so someone might have made the same comment).

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  • tinkerbell

    i have worked in the nhs for 21 years, and 4 years in the private sector. When i returned to the NHS my private sector pension payments i made were transferred back into the NHS pension scheme. Maybe that's how it'll work.

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  • I think this will be a grea idea, especially for those nurses who work for charities running homes and services for those living in the community.

    Many people have said the only reason don't leave the NHS is due to the pension, so this will be a good change.

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