Home England government NHS workers in England and Wales claiming pension hit record high

NHS workers in England and Wales claiming pension hit record high

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The number of NHS workers in England and Wales claiming pension benefits has reached a record monthly high, according to data which underlines the difficult backdrop to the government’s efforts to curb soaring patient backlogs.

The figures reveal that 8,902 retirement pensions were granted to health workers in April this year, compared to 6,932 in April last year, an increase of 28%. The previous record, based on NHS data dating back to 2008 obtained through a Freedom of Information request, was 7,384 in April 2015.

Pension benefits, which include those paid for the first time at normal retirement age or to those taking early retirement, generally peak in April at the end of the financial year.

“While there are a number of reasons why someone would receive their pension benefits, the most common is that they are retiring,” said Graham Crossley, NHS pensions specialist at Quilter, the independent financial adviser who submitted the FOI request.

“We hear that healthcare workers are just plain burnt out, feeling undervalued and wanting out of the NHS for a better quality of life,” he added.

The revelations of the rise in demand for pension benefits come as patients across the UK face record waiting times for appointments and treatment. Staff shortages rose to 110,000 across the NHS by the end of 2021. More than a third of vacancies were for unregistered nurses, according to official data.

Meanwhile, the number of people waiting for surgery or other procedures in hospitals hit a record high of 6.4 million at the end of March this year, up from around 4.4 million people in December 2019. before the pandemic.

In April, the Health Service Journal reported on a leaked letter from senior NHS staff to a chief executive of the trust, which warned that patients routinely waited over 60 hours to be admitted to a bed due to accident and of an emergency, leaving staff “crying with frustration and anger”.

In response, the British Medical Association, the biggest union of doctors, warned on Monday that the situation could deteriorate significantly if the government did not fully tackle the problems that were pushing experienced doctors and general practitioners into early retirement. to avoid huge tax bills if they fail to meet their annual obligations. retirement savings allowance.

“It is extremely concerning that a record number of employees retired in April, but unfortunately this is not a surprise,” said Dr Vishal Sharma, Chairman of the BMA’s Consultants and Pensions Committees. .

“Despite incredible pressure, the Chancellor is adamantly refusing to make the necessary changes to pension taxation rules which leave thousands of our most experienced doctors with little choice but to cut their hours or retire early. .

“Unless the government takes urgent action, staff will continue to retire in record numbers over the next 12 months. »

Caroline Waterfield, director of development and employment at NHS Employers, part of the NHS Confederation which represents organizations in the sector, said “the NHS needs as much flexibility as possible to retain staff”. This includes pension benefit reforms for all staff, not just the top earners.

“It is essential that we have a system that provides options so that all NHS staff can continue to afford to be part of the pension scheme and access the range of benefits that membership of the scheme offers. “, she said.

The Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment.