The Government has launched an open consultation on changes to the NHS Pension Scheme that are expected to help healthcare professionals return to work without being unnecessarily penalised and help the sector continue to work through the COVID-19 backlog.
The proposals made include giving retired or partially retired NHS staff more flexibility when returning to work, enabling them to increase their hours without having their pension payments reduced or halted altogether.
Because of this, staff will be able to claim all or a portion of their pension whilst also having the opportunity to continue working and building their pension benefits.
The proposals also address the inflationary impacts on pensions that have seen some NHS staff get taxed more than necessary – fixing this gives senior staff “more headroom” against the £40,000 annual pension tax allowance, affording the high-skilled and experienced members of the workforce the ability to continue to work in the NHS for as long as they want.
The changes would also mean that staff working across primary care networks would now be able to access the NHS Pension Scheme; previously people such as GPs and general practice staff had to apply for “time-limited access on an ad hoc basis” to the scheme.
The proposals are ultimately geared towards maximising workforce output and ensuring as many clinicians as possible can help the NHS work through the backlog, as the health sector prepares for what could be the most challenging winter on record.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, said: “The generous NHS Pension Scheme is one of the best in the country, but it’s not working as it should for everyone.
“We need a system where our most experienced clinicians don’t feel they have to reduce their workload or take early retirement because of financial worries. I also want to make it easier for staff that want to return to work to support the NHS to be able to do so without penalties.
“These proposed changes will help open up extra appointments so patients can see their GP and consultants more quickly. With record numbers of doctors and nurses working in the NHS alongside record funding, I’m focused on giving people the security of knowing the NHS will be there for them when they need it.”
The consultation will be open for eight weeks with the changes expected to be set in stone by next spring.
Health Minster, Will Quince, added: “The changes we are proposing to the NHS Pension Scheme will offer senior clinicians more flexibility and control over how and when they work, putting the decision about their career directly in their hands.
“As a result, experienced, senior staff will no longer feel forced to retire early, ultimately benefiting patients by ensuring their expertise remains in the NHS for longer so we can continue to deliver world-class healthcare.”