Retaining our people

The NHS needs to be bold and commit to offering more flexible, varied roles and opportunities for remote working. It is not always immediately easy to accommodate individual work preferences. But if we do not take radical action to become a flexible and modern employer in line with other sectors, we will continue to lose people entirely or see participation rates decline.

Staff should be able to expect employers to focus on:

Varied roles: Employers should design roles which make the greatest use of each person’s skills and experiences, and fit with their needs and preferences. The NHS offers many varied opportunities with non-patient facing roles, including in NHS 111, clinical coaching and mentoring, teaching, research and much more. Systems and employers must make greater efforts to design and offer more varied roles to retain our people.

Retaining people approaching retirement: Employers must do more to retain staff aged 55 years and over – who comprise over 19% of our workforce. Employers should ensure that staff who are mid-career (aged around 40 years) and those approaching retirement (aged 55 years and over) have a career conversation with their line manager, HR and occupational health. This should be to discuss any adjustments needed to their role and their future career intentions. It should also include signposting to financial advice – in particular on pensions.

Employers must make their people aware of the increase in the annual allowance pensions tax threshold, made in March 2020, which means that clinicians can earn an additional £90,000 before reaching the new taper threshold. This was designed to address the issue that some people in the NHS felt disincentivised from taking on additional work and leadership opportunities.

Facilitating opportunities to retire and return: Employers must make sure future potential returners, or those who plan to retire and return this financial year, are aware of the ongoing pension flexibilities.

Under the current emergency rules, retired nurses and doctors are allowed to return to the NHS without impacting on their pension and abatement for special class nurses between 55 and 60 years of age is suspended. This means they can do as much work as they like even after they have taken up their pension. The requirement that people work no more than two days a week for a month after taking their pension has also been suspended.

Retaining people in primary care: Systems should ensure that they are supporting their GP workforce through full use of the GP retention initiatives outlined in the GP contract, which will be launched in summer 2020.

Support for retention: NHS England and NHS Improvement’s People Plan delivery programme (launching in summer 2020) will help NHS employers to value and retain their people by making their organisations a better place to work and being a modern and model employer. This will comprise a new online portal of resources, masterclasses and support for systems and organisations.