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NHS pensioners: end of COVID incentive for retired returners

Expiry of emergency measures to attract retired nurses back to practice could soon mean being at work no longer pays – and NHS services lose experienced staff
Older nurse dons face mask, as NHS pensioners face return of pension abatement rule

Pension abatement: why thousands of recently-retired nurses still working after returning to practice in the pandemic could soon quit health service for good

Thousands of recently-retired nurses now still working in the NHS, after returning to practice in the pandemic, could quit by March to avoid pension penalties.

Analysis suggests as many as 7,470 health service staff could lose out when emergency pension measures come to an end.

Emergency provisions end in March

The provisions, introduced under the Coronavirus Act in March 2020, were used to enable retired NHS staff to return to work without fear of compromising their pension. However, they expire on 24 March.

    Pension abatement: why thousands of recently-retired nurses still working after returning to practice in the pandemic could soon quit health service for good

    Older nurse dons face mask, as NHS pensioners face return of pension abatement rule
    Picture: iStock

    Thousands of recently-retired nurses now still working in the NHS, after returning to practice in the pandemic, could quit by March to avoid pension penalties.

    Analysis suggests as many as 7,470 health service staff could lose out when emergency pension measures come to an end.

    Emergency provisions end in March

    The provisions, introduced under the Coronavirus Act in March 2020, were used to enable retired NHS staff to return to work without fear of compromising their pension. However, they expire on 24 March.

    NHS pension specialist Graham Crossley said: ‘There is a risk of thousands of doctors and nurses leaving the NHS unless urgent action is taken.’

    The NHS Business Services Authority has written to 10,279 NHS pension scheme members about the forthcoming changes, according to figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request by Mr Crossley’s wealth management consultancy. Of those, 7,470 could be hit by the return of pension rules known as ‘abatement’, according to the analysis.

    What is pension abatement and will it affect me?

    • Some members of the NHS pension scheme, including nurses with special class status, can retire at 55 without losing any pension. But if they return to work for the NHS, their pension may be docked
    • In short, their pension would be reduced pound for pound if their new salary – plus their NHS pension – adds up to more than they were earning before they retired. This is known as abatement
    • Abatement was suspended as part of the government’s coronavirus action plan to help retired nurses return to work in the NHS without a hit to their pension, but the suspension is set to end on March 24

    Pension decision for retired staff in the workforce

    The Coronavirus Act 2020 allows any of the powers in the legislation to be extended, which Mr Crossley said was an ‘easy fix’ to the problem.

    ‘Many workers have already received their letters and will need to make their decisions now as to whether they will keep working after March 25,’ he added.

    Nurse staffing shortages exacerbated

    Hospitals continue to struggle with COVID-related staff absence, and the military has been used to cover staffing gaps. And unions have called for the introduction of mandatory vaccinations, on 1 April, to be postponed, claiming it would be ‘self-sabotage’ during a staffing crisis.

    England’s Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has been contacted for comment.


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