Don’t be pressured to leave the NHS pension scheme, warns RCN

College says more must be done to market the scheme’s benefits to nurses

College says more must be done to market the scheme’s benefits to nurses

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The RCN is warning nurses to be vigilant against employers who might encourage them to leave the NHS pension scheme to save money.

One in 10 nurses – 35,268 of the 327,628 working in England – did not contribute to the NHS pension scheme in 2018, according to government figures given to Nursing Standard.

Positive programme

RCN national officer Nicola Lee said more needed to be done to market the scheme’s benefits, especially given that one in three nurses would retire in the next 10 years.

‘NHS employer contributions to the scheme will increase this year, yet trusts have been instructed to cut costs.

‘Although it seems the treasury will fund these changes, we must be vigilant about employers seeing an opportunity to make savings by encouraging staff, in certain circumstances, to leave the pension scheme.’

A recent freedom of information request by the Health Service Journal found that almost a quarter of a million NHS staff (245,561) opted out of the NHS pension scheme in the past three years.

Better communication

Former Liberal Democrat pensions minister Sir Steve Webb, who is director of policy at pensions and investments company Royal London, said: ‘The health service needs to find better ways to communicate the value of NHS pensions, otherwise large numbers of staff risk a retirement in poverty.’

Data from Royal London shows that a nurse earning £25,000 who opted out of the scheme for a year could save £1,420 – but it would cost nine times that figure, in a lump sum of £13,000, to fill the pension hole caused by one year of lost pension in retirement. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Around nine in 10 nurses, midwives and health visitors participate in the scheme and will be among the more than one million NHS employees to benefit from the pay rise we announced earlier this year.’

Feeling the pressure

Band 6 nurse Leanne Walden, a single parent living in Norfolk, said she opted out of the NHS pension scheme in October 2018 due to finances – she was working bank shifts at the weekends on top of her salaried role just to make ends meet.

Ms Walden added that she had been paying more than £250 into the pension every month.

She said: ‘I have five years to rejoin the pension scheme – fingers crossed my financial situation will have changed.’


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