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NHS workers urged not to ditch ‘excellent’ pension scheme

It is thought staff are opting out of the scheme due to a squeeze on take-home pay.

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Opting out of the NHS Pension Scheme could see healthcare workers up to nine times worse off later in life.

A recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Health Service Journal found that 245,561 NHS staff had opted out of the NHS pension scheme in the last three years.

According to calculations by Royal London, this represents around 16% of the active membership of the Scheme. Significantly higher than 3.4 per cent among teachers, 1.45 per cent for the civil service and just 0.04 per cent for the Armed Forces.

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It is thought staff are opting out of the scheme due to a squeeze on take-home pay, but experts have warned staff could be up to nine times worse off in the long run.

Younger NHS employees are often on lower salaries and so paying into the NHS Pension Scheme may seem like a big expense for a benefit which is many years away.

‘A big expense’.

Calculations by The Royal London Mutual Insurance Society showed that an NHS worker earning £25,000 per year would save £1,420 annually by opting out, but warn that replacing the same amount of pension provision in retirement could cost around £13,000 at current market rates.

Sir Steve Webb, former pensions minister and Director of Policy at The Royal London Mutual Insurance Society, the NHS as an employer “needs to take urgent action to tackle this epidemic of pension opt-outs”.

He said: “All public sector workers have faced a squeeze on their take-home pay in recent years, but it is in the NHS where this has translated into shockingly high numbers of people leaving the pension scheme. 

“Those who opt out will save money in the short term, but could lose nine times as much in the long-term in reduced pension rights. The NHS needs to find better ways to communicate the value of NHS pensions, otherwise large numbers of NHS staff risk a retirement in poverty.”

Seek financial advice.

Chase de Vere Medical are advising NHS staff to take financial advice before opting out of the ‘lucrative pension scheme’.

Andrea Sproates, Head of Chase de Vere Medical – a financial consultancy firm, says: “These employees are giving up benefits and guarantees which would be really expensive to replicate if they were purchased separately. This includes a pension scheme which is excellent value, with a retirement lump sum, and additional benefits such as dependents’, ill health and death in service benefits.

“The whole package of being a member of the NHS Pension Scheme is extremely valuable, but is under-valued by a lack of understanding and awareness of what members’ contributions are really paying for, how much the government adds and the benefits the Scheme provides.

“It is clear from the eye-watering opt-out rates that there is a huge need for NHS employees to be provided with financial education or advice, so that they can make informed decisions about their pension scheme. At present it is likely that many members are leaving the scheme without a clear understanding of what they’re giving up, a decision they are likely to regret in the future.

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Nursing vacancies hit record high leaving patient care at risk

It can be “dangerous” when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care.

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There are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone.

NHS figures show that there are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The College says a global shortage of nurses alongside the removal of the nursing bursary has compounded this figure which now sees 12% of posts through the NHS in England without a full-time Registered Nurse.

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Figures from the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) show a 29% overall decline in applications to undergraduate courses since 2015, when the bursary was cut by the Government.

In a report released today titled ‘Standing up for patient and public safety’, the Royal College of Nursing outlines the evidence of the need for a new law that allocates specific legal responsibilities for workforce planning and supply.

A new law is needed.

The report states that in order to address the record number of vacancies, and the gap between the numbers of health and care staff needed to deliver patient care vs. how many are in the system.

Figures included in the report reveal that the number of nursing staff has consistently failed to keep up with the dramatic rise in demand for services and the number of emergency admissions.

The report finally makes a further call for legal clarity on the roles, responsibilities, as well as accountabilities, for workforce planning and supply.

In September, after pressure from RCN members, NHS England and NHS Improvement asked the Government for clarity over who is accountable for the nursing workforce.

‘Nurses are working harder than ever’.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “Nurses are working harder than ever to deliver safe patient care but are being held back by a system that is legally lacking teeth. Despite the public, patients and nurses all agreeing that clarity is needed on responsibilities for delivering enough nurses, we have yet to see any government pledge anything of the like, and as a result are staring down the barrel at a record 43k empty nursing posts.

“We know how dangerous it can be when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care, but at present, almost all accountability rests with the frontline nurse working on the understaffed ward, rather than those responsible for the system they work in.

“We believe the time has come for change and that patient care was future-proofed by law, and that from the government down, decision makers are held to account.

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NHS calls for clarity on who is accountable for the nursing workforce

Figures suggest there are around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies throughout the NHS in England.

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Working nurses in the CCU

Healthcare leaders are calling for legislation to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have called on the Government to clarify who is accountable for the nursing workforce and the chronic problems it’s currently facing.

Following ongoing pressure from nursing unions, the two organisations met today and recommend that the government should “revisit with partners whether national responsibilities and duties in relation to workforce functions are sufficiently clear.”

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With around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS in England and thousands more throughout social care, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) believes the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care should be legally accountable for the workforce.

Along with other health care leaders, Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, written to the Government calling for the legislation proposed by NHS England and NHS Improvement to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

Staff shortages have reached ‘alarming levels’.

Responding to the news, Dame Donna Kinnair said: “We are pleased that NHS England and NHS Improvement has recognised the concerns of RCN members and the public and has stated that the issue of accountability for workforce planning and supply remains an area that needs be resolved.”

“In the week after we have launched a major public facing campaign calling for investment in the nursing workforce as well as for accountability to be clarified in the law, yet again, the case is made for this to be taken seriously.

“We are clear that government is well placed to determine how accountability can be clarified in law.

Adding; “Staff shortages have reached alarming levels with at least 40,000 vacant registered nurse posts in the NHS in England alone with thousands more vacancies in public health and social care.

“We now hope government will listen to this message, as well as the voices of the thousands of members that responded to the NHS England engagement process, and bring forward this legislation, taking the opportunity to include accountability in government and throughout the health and care system, for workforce planning and supply.”

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