NHS hangs on to its older staff

7 Sep 00
Doctors and nurses on the verge of retirement are being urged to postpone their departure until next spring to help avoid a winter crisis in the NHS.

08 September 2000

As an incentive to stay on, the Department of Health will top up their already generous NHS pensions.

The department said that trusts would not have to find the money from their own budgets because each NHS Executive regional office would be given cash to finance the initiative.

Trusts have been given a lot of discretion over how much they should pay to individuals, though the department does not believe this will lead to huge bonuses.

More than 150,000 NHS staff in England are aged over 50, including 50,000 qualified nurses. Under the NHS Pension Scheme, these workers are all eligible for retirement. Those who work in highly stressful areas, such as consultant psychiatrists, can retire at 55 with full benefits.

NHS clinical staff are ageing rapidly. According to Department of Health figures, more than 40% of qualified nurses will be of retirement age by 2005, compared with 18% in 1995.

The British Medical Association says 20% of hospital doctors and 30% of GPs are over 50. The problem is particularly acute in inner-city areas, where one in six south Asian GPs, who normally work alone, are due to retire by 2007.

The NHS Executive has also sent a letter to qualified and unqualified nurses aged over 50 who have left the NHS Pension Scheme in the past five years and to those under 65 who have retired in the same period due to ill-health or redundancy, asking them to consider returning to the health service on a part-time basis or at times of peak demand.

The Executive believes trusts could build up pools of nurses to ease pressure points.

One trust human resources director said the initiative was one of a number of schemes aimed at tackling winter staffing shortages. But he warned: 'This is only a short-term solution to problems with the recruitment and retention of staff. There is no quick fix – we simply have to train more doctors and nurses and bring back those nurses who have left the service.'


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