Rise in retired NHS nurses returning to work after pension change
‘Retire-and-return’ option for new NHS pensioners proved more popular among recently retired nurses than any oher occupational group in the health service
A third of nurses who retired from the NHS two years ago returned to work after pension scheme changes allowed them to practise without losing out financially.
NHS England data show 4,600 (44%) of the 10,300 nurses who retired between July 2021 and June 2022 rejoined the health service within 12 months, representing an increase of four percentage points since the previous year.
This comes after changes to NHS pension rules mean staff eligible to retire at 55 can return to the health service without compromising their pension.
‘Retire-and-return’ NHS pension changes
The changes were introduced during the pandemic and extended this year. Since 1 April, nurses and other staff can re-commence their pension contributions if they return to work. And from 1 October, a new partial retirement option has been available to NHS staff, allowing them to draw down some of their pension while continuing to work.
England’s chief nursing officer Ruth May claimed there has ‘never been a better time’ to return to the health service.
And NHS England chief workforce, training and education officer Navina Evans said: ‘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.’
This can't be a silver bullet to solve NHS workforce crisis, says RCN
RCN national officer team leader Chris Musgrave said retired nurses returning to work cannot be a ‘silver bullet to solve the workforce crisis in the NHS’.
‘Creating conditions where older workers can continue to work if they choose must be implemented alongside other measures to improve recruitment and retention within the NHS,’ he said.
'Addressing the decade of real terms pay cuts which NHS staff have endured would be the most urgent and beneficial course of action to address the tens of thousands of vacancies in the NHS.’
More retired nurses come back to the NHS than other staff groups
Nurses represent the largest staff group to retire-and-return, with 37% of those who had retired from the wider workforce choosing to return.
Those aged 55-59 are more likely to return to work than those over 60. Almost half (48%) of NHS pension members from all staff groups, and more than half of recently retired nurses (56.3%), returned to work.
Staff who retire and return to practice tend to do so on reduced hours, with nurses reducing their hours by roughly a third, according to NHS England data.
In other news