The Government has confirmed it will continue to suspend NHS pension rules that limit the flexibility of retired workers returning to the health service after a consultation showed responses were ‘almost universally supportive’ of the temporary change.
The pension abatement rules were initially suspended in March 2020 to allow retired and partially retired staff to return to work or increase their hours during the pandemic without having their pension income suspended or abated (reduced).
Although the changes were supposed to end in March this year, they were extended until 31 October 2022 as a way to help ease staffing pressures in the NHS.
However, a consultation was launched earlier this year on proposals to keep the changed rules in place for another six months until March 2023.
Out of the responses to the consultation, 98% were in favour of continuing the ‘easements’ beyond October, the consultation document says.
However, some argued that this needed to be longer than for a six-month period, or that it should be removed entirely. Only 32% of respondents agreed with the proposed duration, with 68% disagreeing.
In response, the Government said that ‘the 16-hour rule will be suspended to 31 March 2023, with further proposals for its permanent removal from 1 April 2023’.
The abatement of special class status (SCS) members such as mental health officers would be suspended for a longer period until 31 March 2025, and the abatement of draw-down members of the 2008 section and 2015 scheme would be suspended until 31 March 2023.
The Government said: ‘A further suspension of these easements ensures that the NHS workforce continues to benefit from increased capacity from retired and partially retired staff during a period when staff sickness absence rates are likely to increase.’
It added: ‘These measures were first introduced to help the NHS deal with peak periods of the pandemic response. However, we recognise that the elective recovery period, which is not directly linked to the immediate pandemic response, is placing continued pressure on NHS services and workforce capacity. It is therefore reasonable and proportionate to continue the suspension of SCS abatement for a longer period to help the NHS deliver elective recovery and address backlogs.
‘DHSC is keeping the impact of the NHS Pension Scheme on NHS workforce needs under review.’