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Axe falls on ‘irresponsible’ NHS pension opt-out scheme

PUBLISHED: 14:15 12 April 2016 | UPDATED: 14:15 12 April 2016

Concerns were raised on the potential for knock-on effects aross the NHS.

Concerns were raised on the potential for knock-on effects aross the NHS.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

The controversial scheme was introduced in a bid to curb staff shortages

A controversial deal that encouraged nurses to opt out of the NHS pension scheme in return for higher take-home pay has been closed to new applicants.

Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust offered higher take-home pay to Band 5 nurses who were not members of the NHS scheme in a bid to alleviate severe staff shortages, which have been particularly acute in mental health settings.

Oxleas provides mental health, community and learning disability services to residents across Greenwich, Bromley and Bexley.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) branded the deal ‘irresponsible and ill thought through’, claiming it was encouraging nurses to put their financial futures at risk, and has been calling for it to be withdrawn.

Concerns had also been raised about the wider knock-on effects for the NHS Pension Scheme if the practice spread to other employers.

Pensions minister Baroness Altmann said that ‘enticing’ staff out of schemes would ‘undermine the whole thrust of the new pension system we are developing’.

Trade unions formally entered a dispute in March after negotiations failed to reach an agreement.

At their April Board meeting on April 7, the trust announced they would close the scheme to new applicants pending an impact evaluation.

RCN London regional director Bernell Bussue said: “We are pleased that Oxleas, after listening to concerns raised by trade union colleagues, have decided to close this scheme for new applicants. This is the right thing to do.

“We look forward to working constructively with Oxleas to find a better way forward which properly rewards the front line nursing staff working hard to keep patients safe.

“London faces a severe shortage of registered nursing staff and innovative solutions are needed to address the challenge. However encouraging staff to opt-out of the NHS Pension Scheme is irresponsible and ill thought through.

“It is worrying that the Government’s NHS pay freeze is leading employers to explore increasingly complicated schemes like this to get the number of permanent staff they need in place.”

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