Retired staff returning to the NHS

Recently released data has shown that more than a third of nurses who retired two years ago had returned to practice 12 months later.

Analysis of NHS workforce data by NHS England revealed that 4,600 of 10,300 (44 per cent) nursing staff that retired between July 2021 and June 2022 had rejoined the health service within 12 months – 4 percentage points more than the previous year.

The announcement comes after an extension to changes to the pension rules, which mean that staff with the reserved right to retire at age 55 (such as nurses, midwives, physiotherapists and health visitors), can retire and return to the NHS without it impacting their pension - even if they work full time.

Since 1 April 2023, they can also rejoin the pension scheme and build further pension if they wish.

NHS England also made it mandatory for NHS organisations to offer staff flexible working options for every role.

Across the wider NHS, the retire and return rate was 37 per cent over the last year, with 12,800 out of 34,500 members of staff who retired in the 12 months up to June 2022 returning to work within the following 12 months.  

Those that do retire and return often come back on reduced hours, with nurses reducing their hours by roughly a third, compared to staff overall reducing their hours by a fifth on returning to practice.

People aged between 55 and 59 are more likely to retire and return than those aged over 60. 48 per cent of all NHS staff, and 56.3% per cent of nurses who retired between 55 and 59 later returned to work.

Dr Navina Evans, chief workforce, training and education officer for NHS England, said: “The NHS is hugely grateful to staff who have given years of service to care and treat patients and we recognise their skills and experience as being massively beneficial to the healthcare service.

“However, we understand that as people approach the end of their careers, they want to enjoy a higher degree of flexibility in their working life.  

“The retire and return arrangements help the NHS to retain highly experienced staff for longer, which supports colleagues and patients and also helps the NHS realise the ambitions laid out in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.”  

Dame Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England said: “Our NHS nurses and healthcare staff work tirelessly to care for patients each and every day and it is fantastic thousands are returning to join their former colleagues.

“To support staff to work in the health service for longer the NHS is offering more flexible working options than ever before, while new rules mean you can earn a salary while still taking your NHS pension, so I would encourage any retired NHS staff to consider coming back, there has never been a better time to do so.”