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Thousands of nurses forced to quit NHS pensions as bills soar

Struggling to pay bills, more than 4,000 nurses quit scheme between April and July 2022. In total, almost 12,000 have opted out since April last year

Struggling to pay bills, more than 4,000 nurses quit scheme between April and July 2022. In total, almost 12,000 have opted out since April last year

Thousands of nurses have opted out of their pension schemes in the past three months as they struggle to pay bills in the cost-of-living crisis, with one union warning it is ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

Data published by the NHS Business Services Authority shows that more than 4,000 registered nurses in England and Wales opted out of their NHS pensions between April and July 2022. In total, almost 12,000 nurses have opted out since April last year.

‘Lifetime of service should never mean a lifetime of poverty’, says RCN

Analysis of the

Struggling to pay bills, more than 4,000 nurses quit scheme between April and July 2022. In total, almost 12,000 have opted out since April last year

Thousands of nurses have opted out of the NHS pension scheme
Picture: iStock

Thousands of nurses have opted out of their pension schemes in the past three months as they struggle to pay bills in the cost-of-living crisis, with one union warning it is ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

Data published by the NHS Business Services Authority shows that more than 4,000 registered nurses in England and Wales opted out of their NHS pensions between April and July 2022. In total, almost 12,000 nurses have opted out since April last year.

‘Lifetime of service should never mean a lifetime of poverty’, says RCN

Analysis of the figures by the RCN found that more than 66,000 NHS staff in England and Wales opted out of their pensions in the same three months, more than double than in the same period as last year. It equates to around 550 NHS staff being forced to opt out each day.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘It is a sad day when the people who care for this country from cradle to grave don’t earn enough to provide for their own future. A lifetime of service should never mean a lifetime of poverty.’

A newly qualified nurse in England and Wales on a salary of around £27,000 would pay about £183 of their basic salary into their pension each month, according to the RCN — money that many nurses desperately need for rising food, heating and petrol costs.

‘I work full-time and despite constantly picking up extra work, I just couldn’t make ends meet. I had no choice but to leave the scheme’

Nurse and RCN member Jodie Elliot

While just under half (47%) of those who had opted out of their pensions said this was a temporary decision, the RCN said they fear that more people will be forced to opt out of the scheme.

On 1 October the Department of Health and Social Care made changes to the pension structure, reducing the number of tiers in order to avoid staff increasing their contributions if they get a small pay rise.

At the time, unions warned that it might force people to opt out of the scheme if their monthly take-home pay reduced.

Nurse’s agonising decision to quit NHS pension scheme ‘horrified’ her family

Nurse Jodie Elliott

Nurse and RCN member Jodie Elliott, from London, opted out of her NHS pension because she could no longer afford it.

She said it had been an agonising decision that had ‘horrified’ her family, adding: ‘My family had always drilled into me the importance of securing my financial future, but every single month I was getting to the bottom of both my overdrafts despite being extremely careful.

‘I work full-time and despite constantly picking up extra work, I just couldn’t make ends meet. I had no choice but to leave the scheme.’

The warning comes as new research published by the New Economics Foundation this week shows newly qualified nurses will be up to £3,800 worse off in real terms by next April, and will struggle to afford the cost of food and clothes.


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