Trusts were also told to “accelerate” the recruitment of substantive nurses.
Nurses looking to retire and those who recently retired will be asked to return in an attempt to address the nursing workforce shortage.
In a letter sent to hospital trusts earlier this month, NHS England tells trusts to encourage staff thinking of retiring to stay and asking those that have recently retired to return.
It is part of a larger plan to help tackle the nursing workforce shortage and the record backlog in patient care.
Other suggestions to trusts included; using NHS reservists, encouraging staff to increase their working hours and maximising the use of collaborative staff banks.
Trusts were also told to “accelerate” the recruitment of substantive nurses to move away from an overreliance on expensive agency workers.
The news comes only days after a King’s Fund report concluded that a Conservative party pledge of 50,000 more nurses has failed to have any “substantial impact”.
No incentive to stay.
Official figures suggest there are currently 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies across the NHS in England alone.
An increase in pay or improved working conditions for already burned out staff were notably missing from the letter signed by NHSE leaders, including chief nurse Ruth May.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has criticised the letter for failing to give any incentive for staff to stay.
RCN England director Patricia Marquis said: “Employers can’t keep expecting more from nursing staff as more staff leave because there is no incentive to stay. The impact of on patients and staff is just not acceptable.
“The government must invest and address the staffing crisis that pushes nursing staff to their limit every day. A fully-funded substantial pay rise and long-term workforce strategy must be a priority.”
Earlier this month, MPs rejected a plan for the second time to publish a regular healthcare workforce analysis designed to identify and help tackle the shortfall in staff.