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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)

  • Dare I say it, but thank god this is actually being taken seriously by the powers that be, and solutions are being sought.

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  • Don't kid yourself. There is nothing here that will benefit nurses. It's still pay more and get less. And when you're are too old and bent double to perform what may have been a job which you loved (but were not allowed to retire from gracefully at an appropriate age), you will be forced to work in some sh*t role that you wouldn't have picked in a million years, until they finally let you go. My advice to those who can. Get out of nursing now. Go and find yourself a career with some respect and better conditions. Or, if you really want to be a nurse, emigrate.

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  • The staff side representing Nurses has been placed in an impossible situation by their membership. The inconclusive "vote" demonstrates the most appalling level of apathy amongst Nurses about an issue that involves individual, personal well being.

    The same people ,will however continue to moan and complain about how their representative organisations "Do Nothing"

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  • anon 10.37

    you make excellent points. I just wonder what age you think of getting out though as after a certain age many employers are not keen to take you on in a new career when you many be competing with many other younger candidates no matter how good your cv, skills, experience and qualifications.

    on another note, those who make the rules about retirement at 68 obviously have no idea how physical some nursing jobs are. I am a very sportive and fit 65 year old, retired, but there is no way I could still do some of the heavier tasks which used to be expected of me but how would you tell the rest of your colleagues this if you were still working. you could hardly tell them you can't do this, that and the next and especially as a lot of the work is not predictable and cannot be preplanned. we often worked for several hours on the wards on our own and at night a nine hour shift and some the work could not be delayed until help was at hand! ridiculous!

    some acute wards where the demands are high and too few pairs of hands (and feet) nurse have to work extremely fast and think on their feet. many older people are no longer able to work at this pace. if nurses have to work until 68 jobs will have to be adapted to fit their capabilities.

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  • Anonymous | 7-Aug-2012 12:12 pm
    Anonymous | 7-Aug-2012 10:37 am

    "I just wonder what age you think of getting out...."

    I would say the earlier, the better. That's why I said, ".....those who can." Better still, don't enter Nursing in the first place.

    I am in my fifties and, like yourself, I am fit. I worry about the younger staff and the future they face with the increasing burdens being placed on the NHS wth fewer resources available.

    Anonymous | 7-Aug-2012 11:09 am

    I agree. As a union steward for many years, I got fed up with the apathy amongst nurses when it actually came to backing up legitimate complaints with effective action. That said, the organisations representing nurses could do better. When will nurses learn that acting with unity would transform the NHS and improve the lot of patients and nurses? I still cast my vote and stand on the picket lines, and, whilst I am aware that a 'dead horse' and 'flogging' feature heavily in these activities, I will continue to do so.

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  • I wonder how many workers in other professions would want to, or be capable of working three or four twelve and a half hour shifts per week in their sixties, especially if at least three quarters of that time they were on their feet!

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  • I 60 in March and work 16 hours a week on a busy ward. The work is getting more stressful as we have less staff and we sometimes don't get a break. I am only just coping now and I don't feel I could cope much longer. I'm going retire next March but will need to do bank as I don't get the state pension until 63.

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  • when all these austerity measures and cut backs of staff started and we were suddenly expected to do the impossible and were given new and often unrealistic directives from above from those who had never had any contact with us or with patients, and then told to organise ourselves better if we complained or said our staffing levels were unsafe, I did wonder whether those of us still with a job but totally overworked beyond coping were better off or whether it was those who had just lost their jobs and unable to find another?

    I think, nevertheless, those of us still in employment and with an income were probably still the better off tough though it was and frustrating to no longer be able to offer our patients the holistic and high standards of care we had previously given and had been trained for. At least we knew where our next meal would come from and still provide a roof over our heads.

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  • Florence

    I will be 40 next month. Im blessed with good health at the moment. Im very fit and exercise regularly . However a full time working week still leaves me exhausted. However I cannot kid myself that I will be able to carry on with the full time frontline role Im in till Im 68. Fortunatley Im making provision that will allow me to retire at 60. I dont want to leave nursing but I will probarly go part time when I get in to my fifties.

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  • In the current situation, I would advise frontline clinicians to look for alternative careers when they are 30. I wish I had, though at the time I did not plan ahead. That's the trouble with pension and pay discussions - many of those who are a long way off from retirement can't imagine that it will affect them. It comes round sooner than you think!!

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