Thousands of retired staff are returning to work to help the health service, new figures from NHS England have revealed.
NHS workforce data showed that, of the 10,300 nursing staff who retired between July 2021 and June 2022, 4,600 (44%) had rejoined the health system within 12 months – a four percentage point increase on the previous year.
The extra returners come after the extension of changes to the pension rules which were first introduced in 2020.
The changes meant that staff who could retire at 55 – such as nurses, midwives, physiotherapists and health visitors – could return to work without it affecting their pension, even if they work full time.
Since 1 April 2023, staff have also been able to rejoin the pension scheme and build it further if they wish.
The increase follows additional changes that saw NHS England make flexible working arrangements for every role mandatory.
Wider health service figures mirror the trend seen in nursing, with 12,800 of the 34,500 (37%) NHS staff who retired during the 12 months leading up to June 2022, coming back within a year.
Since the start of this month, staff have been able to engage in a so-called partial retirement – i.e., instead of fully retiring, staff can draw some, or all, of their pension while continuing to work and build up their pension – this is subject to a reduction in pensionable pay.
NHS England’s chief workforce, training and education officer, Dr Navina Evans, said: “The NHS is hugely grateful to staff who have given years of service to care and treat patients and we recognise their skills and experience as being massively beneficial to the healthcare service.
“However, we understand that as people approach the end of their careers, they want to enjoy a higher degree of flexibility in their working life.”
She concluded: “The retire and return arrangements help the NHS to retain highly experienced staff for longer, which supports colleagues and patients and also helps the NHS realise the ambitions laid out in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.”
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