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Concerns over aging workforce

Action must be taken to retain older nurses who are considering retirement in order to avoid a staffing crisis, a professional body has said.

The Royal College of Nursing Scotland (RCN) argues that more should be done to encourage the "significant numbers" of nurses aged over 50 to stay in work until they reach retirement age.

The RCN has warned the Scottish government in its Older ... but wiser? report that unless action is taken there will not only be a staff shortage, but the loss of skills and experience will have serious repercussions on patient care.

Currently one in three nurses working in the NHS community sector are aged 50 or over, and three in ten community nurses will reach retirement age within the next ten years as they are more likely to be able to retire at 55.

Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland Director, said: "Research shows that over three quarters of nurses would consider delaying their retirement, depending on the circumstances.

"However, there is not enough information about what measures employers could take to encourage nurses to stay in the workforce longer."

Ms Fyffe has asked the government to assess the contribution of older nurses in order to create measures to help retain the workforce.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Royal College of Nursing Scotland

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"The dedicated and competent nurses are most welcomed to stay in the profession." - Amy Leung, Hong Kong

"Yes, we shoud be encouraging this with the option to stay made easier, but then this should be the case for other groups of workers too. We need to have a rethink about retirement and come up with more flexible and imaginative approaches, which would allow those who chose to do so to carry on." - Pauline Edwards

"I feel that more should be done nowadays to retain our older and more experienced nurses. I have just retired at 55 years of age after having worked for almost 30 years in the community. I was not encouraged to work at a lower grade which I would have welcomed; instead I left feeling that I could not cope with all the stress of the job and technology that went with it. Senior nurses are expected to spend a lot of their day inputting data, not caring for patients, which is what we entered the profession to do." - Sharon Nile, Northampton

"Nurses should be encouraged to continue to work while they are mentally and physicaly capable. I am 70 and still practice as a senior occupational health adviser and love the contact it still gives me with the profession and public. This is my 51st year in the profession and I will continue as long as I am able." - Mick Heyes, Midlands

"Although good nurses need to be recognised at all ages, I think it also needs to be said the training is very different now and that nurses who were trained 30 years ago were doing things very differently. I have met a wealth of good nurses of all ages, but tend to find some of the older nurses have outdated ways of working and need retraining." - Rebecca, Swindon

"Jane, Roseline and Nicola, thank you for your comments, it makes a change to hear that "older" nurses are valued, as in some cases our experience, information and hard work is thought of as "fuddy-duddy" and outdated. I have loved nursing for the last 33 years and would hope that I can go on offering support to younger nurses. I do worry that low moral amongst younger nurses affects the care they give and makes them feel under valued. Let us hope that as individuals we are caring and strong enough to rise up and give patients the care they deserve." - Name and address supplied

"Yes, this is vital for patient care, but only as long as they want to and are recognised for their efforts." - Kim French, Wigan

"We are given no value and underpaid by GPs. I love to nurse as much as I did in 1975, but the incentive to stay does not exist." - Name and address supplied

"I am 64 years old and still working 21 hours a week as a practice nurse. I have worked in three different practices since I returned to work in 1985 after having a career break to raise a family. Why do I still work? It's very simple, I enjoy it! And I still feel I have something to contribute." - Name and address supplied

"I have recently read an article about retiring GPs and found that the retirement on mass that was envisaged to occur because of low morale to the NHS changes just did not happen. GPs are deciding to work for longer, often until post-retirement age, with a proportion doing locums aged 70 years plus. If this is allowed for this medical group why should it not apply to retired nurses who feel competently skilled and capable to extend their working years if they so wish, to assist in bridging the gap (albeit temporarily) in the NHS? More should be done to retain those trained and better equip those in training with the knowledge and skills required for a changing NHS." - V Henry

"I have been nursing for 20 years and I am finding it harder to cope physically, I do not think I would be able to keep up at an older age, it is a very physical job." - Marnie, London

"No! After 30 years' hard slog they deserve some time for themselves – I certainly won't be eager to stay." - Pam Fry, Surrey

"I agree, I am one of those considering retirement, having been a nurse for the past 33 years, 25 of which I have been community based. Perhaps a retention bonus payment of £500 could be paid per annum after 30 years service – it needs to be some form of loyalty reward." - Robert Downes, Liverpool

"Most certainly, they offer a wealth of information and experience." - Jane Holloway

"Yes. Older nurses are very committed to their work.They are
experienced, dedicated, consistent, professional, hard working and rarely go off sick." - Roseline Bella, Newham

"Yes, very much so. They are vital with their wealth of experience." - Nicola Visagie