The UK government has launched a consultation on potential changes to the NHS pension scheme, which could make it easier for retired and partially retired NHS staff to return to the workforce.
Some pension scheme retire and return rules were suspended in March 2020 to allow staff to return to work or increase their working commitments without having their pension benefits payment suspended. The consultation has been introduced to seek views from the public and stakeholders on proposals to continue these easements until 31 March 2023, as they are are currently set to run until 31 October.
According to the government, these measures will help boost the workforce ahead of what could be a challenging winter, where it expects more people to come forward for health checks. This would allow skilled and experienced staff that have stepped up to support the system to continue working for the NHS throughout the upcoming winter period, easing pressures on the system and helping to tackle backlogs caused by the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic over the past two years.
The consultation also noted that due to the continued need for staff to isolate and miss work if they contract Covid-19, an issue which is only likely to increase over winter, in addition to rises in other seasonal illnesses, capacity may be affected, at a time when demand for services will continue to be high.
The consultation is set to close on Monday 12 September, with a statutory instrument in place by November, in the event of a positive outcome.
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: “The country is hugely thankful to all the retired staff who returned to support the NHS and the public during the pandemic. This winter will be challenging too and we are putting in place the necessary preparations to support the NHS and put the health system in the strongest possible position to tackle the pressures and bust the Covid-19 backlogs, while it continues to deliver first-rate care to patients.
“As part of this we are now consulting on extending temporary changes to the NHS pension scheme, which have so far allowed highly skilled retired staff to return to the workforce without having their pension benefits affected.”