The government is consulting on whether to extend temporary changes to the NHS pension scheme to help tackle ongoing staff shortages in the health service.
The Coronavirus Act 2020, passed in March 2020, temporarily suspended some NHS pension rules during the COVID-19 pandemic to make it easier for retired professionals to return to full-time NHS work across the UK without any reduction in pension income.
These temporary changes meant that recently retired NHS professionals could return to work without having their pension benefits suspended. They also allowed returning retirees to work for more than 16 hours per week in the first calendar month after officially retiring: something that was previously not allowed.
Now, the government wants to extend these provisions, which are currently set to expire on 31 October 2022.
In its consultation, the government proposes to extend them until 31 March 2023 because it expects staff sickness rates from COVID-19 to continue to have a negative impact.
In a press release issued on 28 August 2022, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said: “Ahead of what could be a challenging winter … these measures will help support and boost the workforce.
“In this way, we are putting in place preparations that will put the health system in the strongest possible position to tackle the pressures and bust the COVID-19 backlogs.”
Alongside the Coronavirus Act 2020, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) created a temporary register, which allowed pharmacists who had previously voluntarily removed themselves from the GPhC’s register, or were removed for non-renewal, to practise again if they wanted to. The register is currently set to close on 30 September 2022.
Responding to a query from The Pharmaceutical Journal asking if the register will be extended, a spokesperson for the DHSC said: “To manage the closure of the emergency registers and mitigate any impact on the NHS workforce, six months’ notice of the closure was provided [to registrants] in order to facilitate transfers between emergency and permanent registers.
“We strongly encourage those who were included on the temporary emergency register and wish to continue practising after September to join the permanent register.”
The consultation on changing pensions rules closes on 12 September 2022.