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New review to look at nurse retirement plans


Frontline NHS nurses could in future be allowed to retire earlier with trusts paying higher pension contributions to cover the cost, Nursing Times has learnt.

Older nurses might also be moved out of frontline roles, under options being looked at to counter concerns over the government’s controversial plans to extend the retirement age of NHS staff to 68.

A review group has been set up to investigate the potential for employers to allow some staff to take early retirement, with the cost covered by the increased pension contributions also set to be introduced by the unpopular reforms.

Early retirement would only be made available to staff identified as potentially suffering a “detriment” from being made to work to an older age, suggesting many nurses would be covered by the move.

Nursing Times has been told a review group will meet for the first time in September, as part of a year-long investigation of what the impact of making NHS staff work longer will be. It will include representatives from unions, the Department of Health and trust representative body NHS Employers.

From 2015 the retirement age for NHS staff will be linked to the state pension age, which is set to increase to 66 by 2020, 67 by 2036 and 68 by 2046.

The proposal has drawn widespread criticism from nurses who questioned whether people in their late 60s could cope with the physical nature of many frontline nursing roles.

The objectives set for the review group state that it will “explore the option” of employers paying early retirement costs for staff “identified as suffering a detriment for working longer with particular reference to staff in frontline and demanding roles”.

It will look at evidence from other countries and examine how NHS trusts could change their practices and behaviours to support an older workforce.

This could also include flexible careers to allow some staff to be moved away from frontline duties as they near retirement age.

Unison national officer for health Sara Gorton said: “What we need to do now to move things forward is to produce data to clearly identify where there are particular job characteristics or employer types that have a big or unusual impact on working age issues.”

She noted that the existing proposals for pension reform would allow early retirement if staff paid extra contributions themselves, which would also be matched by employers.

“There are draft proposals that the government could implement, and they contain a clause to allow early retirement where members of staff could pay extra contributions, which would be matched by employers,” she said.

Gerry O’Dwyer, senior employer relations advisor at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We need to understand the impact of people working longer.

“Our clear position has been against the linking of the state pension age with the occupational pension age, as we don’t believe the nature of general nursing can sustain people working full-time at that age.”

A DH spokesman said discussions on the scope of the review were on-going and the group’s first meeting was expected in the autumn.

He said: “The review will look at evidence on the impact of working longer in terms of health and wellbeing and service delivery, good employment practice and development of new and longer career pathways as well as considering a more strategic and flexible approach to reward.”

He added: “This could include employer funded contribution rates to offset the cost of early retirement or flexibility for frontline staff to take on alternative roles to allow them to work to their pension age if they want.”

As well as working for longer, nurses will also have to contribute more for their pension under the government’s new scheme. Contribution rates are set to rise by an average of 3.2% over three years from April 2012. The final pension will be based on an NHS career average salary.

Those within 10 years of retirement in April 2012 will not see any change to their benefits.

Neither Unison nor the Royal College of Nursing have formally accepted or rejected the proposals, following inconclusive membership ballots.

The British Medical Association, which rejected the deal, held a national day of action on 21 June. It has delayed taking further industrial action, but has said it will continue to fight for a fairer deal for its members.


Readers' comments (30)

  • Can you imagine when the crash call goes out. The clanking of zimmer frames and the revving of mobility scooters. The screachng of hearing aids. All that huffing and puffing, that will be the staff just getting to the patient.
    When do people beging to realise that nurses like firemen amd policemen have to call it a day befor they drop dead in their tracks?

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  • when you think that my cousin at age 18 was refused nurse training as she once fainted and epilepsy was suspected. she was considered a potential danger to patients. she never had another episode and is now in her mid 60s, fit, healthy, sportive and energetic.

    all sorts of illnesses such as diabetes for example excluded some excellent candidates from the profession. I presume this discriminatory rule has now been relaxed as these illnesses can develop later on and not necessarily preclude continuation of a career in the caring professions. I know plenty of people in Europe who have had MH disorders and this has not prevented them going on to train as doctors or nurses and in fact they probably have far deeper insight into the needs of their patients than many others.

    surely those as described in the post above who need a hearing or other artificial aid are just as much, if not more, of a danger on this previous premise.

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  • Who in earth is going to be a nurse in their late 60's? Can you imagine helping people 10 years younger than yourself out of bed and the strain on your joints as you 'move' people up the bed. No thanks.

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  • what role are occupational health playing in this? it looks as if they need to wake up and do some research on the effects of working in nursing on older individuals and publish results of their findings with their recommendations and guidelines.

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  • from anon above.

    a rapid Google search reveals very little research has been carried out in this area. CINHL or the BNI may possibly reveal further literature.

    Chapter 39Personal Safety for Nurses
    Alison M. Trinkoff; Jeanne M. Geiger-Brown; Claire C. Caruso; Jane A. Lipscomb; Meg Johantgen; Audrey L. Nelson; Barbara A. Sattler; Victoria L. Selby.
    Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses.
    Hughes RG, editor.
    Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2008 Apr.

    Beyond 50. challenges at work for older nurses and allied health workers in rural Australia: a thematic analysis of focus group discussions
    Lyn J Fragar† and Julie C Depczynski*†
    BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:42 doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-42

    Health and safety of older nurses
    By: Susan Letvak, PhD, RN
    Letvak, S. (2005) Health and safety of the older registered nurse. Nursing Outlook, (53)2, 66-72. doi:10.1016/j.outlook.2004.09.005
    Made available courtesy of Elsevier:

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 9-Aug-2012 8:46 pm
    I do like the idea of a mobility scooter to assist me in the not too distant future.

    I would like one with a zuped up engine, revved up exhaust and fluffly dice that can do 0-60 mph from standing start, also one that i can do wheelies round the bends and 180 turns in case i have forgotten something and need to go back to starting point. Pretty much an adapted harley davidson with bells on.

    Will they be parked up at the entrance to our wards so that we can get straight on em when we arrive? and a smart card that we insert to get the engine going?

    Also pit stops will need to be made for rapid wheel changes, blow outs and torque adjustment (whatever that is) so a mechanic will need to be on hand at all times.

    Also would need need to wear crash helmets for health and safety, and some knee protectors or maybe full set of leathers.

    If we all have one it will pretty much be like dodgems and as we pass by each other we can give each other a high five and a 'yeehah'.

    There must be no deliberately trying to crash into each other though and a policy will need to be drawn up on the rules of 'fair play' otherwise disciplinary action will need to be taken.

    Sounds like fun to me.

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  • Tinkerbell,

    future hospitals will have to be designed with extra space to accommodate these scooters so that they can go up and down the wards and around the beds safely. these scooters should meet with the latest health and safety standards and have an extra seat or a sidecar for patients who need to be acccompanied to the wc as well as a towbar for wheelchairs.
    (our ward loos hardly had enough space for a wheelchair!).

    I shall nominate you for the race on the Island of Sark, or Brighton Beach, but don't rate your chances of winning too high at the moment against the reigning champion of Sark who is over 90 and has undergone years of intensive training.

    unable to find video of it. it seems they like to keep themselves to themselves over there. There is one of the Brighton Beach race.

    try this instead. it has some useful and innovative ideas for hospital settings!

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  • Why do most of you think you will be decrepit in your 50's/60's. We are forever reading that 50 is the 'new 40' 60 is the 'new 50' etc. I am in my late 50's and am perfectly capable mentally and physically to be a full time Nurse.

    If anything, some of the younger Nurses will have problems I suspect due to 'size issues' in quite a number. We all know we are raising a generation of young people with obesity and health issues. I guess that is a different discussion though.

    Be more positive about yourselves. What do you think people do in Countries without Pension Schemes? What do you think our ancestors did? They work/worked to a great age - and they did not all die young as can be ascertained from looking round any Graveyard.

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  • 4.23 pm

    whose side are you on. most nurses do not wish to have the retirement age raised to 58. end of story!

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  • Anonymous | 12-Aug-2012 4:23 pm

    Your post reads like that Monty Python skit a few years ago. It involved a lot of 'stuff and nonsense...."we lived in a shoe-box without a lid"....' oneupmanship comments. Monty Python were much funnier, though.
    You are missing the point. I don't want to work as a nurse until I am in my late sixties. Never did. I too in my fifties, am fit and look after myself, I have worked hard in the NHS for most of my life (and continue to do so), but it was never in my life-plan to still be working at 68. I have other things to do and to see after a life-time of caring and public service. In common with most nurses, I have gone 'over and above' on many occasions, for not very much remuneration. I have been sensible, saved what I can and contributed fully in Tax and National Insurance. I have more than kept my side of the bargain.
    You and I are fortunate to enjoy good health, but look to the ill health statistics for those who work 24 hour rotation shift patterns in high-stress, physically demanding environments and that reveals a lot more about a nurse's lot than taking cheap shots at 'size issues'.
    Finally, the majority of our ancestors did die at a significantly younger age. Stop haunting graveyards and do a little bit of reading in the library. That's where you will find more accurate factual information.

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