Twice as many staff in England and Wales opted out of the NHS pension this year compared to the previous year, with many citing affordability as their reason for doing so, according to new data.
Figures released by the NHS Business Service Authority (NHSBSA), a non-departmental body which provides support services for the NHS, showed that between April and July this year, 66,167 NHS staff opted out of the pension scheme.
This is well over double the 30,27o who opted out over the same period last year, and equates to over 550 staff leaving the scheme every day in the months between April and July 2022.
The number dropping out of the scheme citing affordability and other financial priorities has also grown from 11,500 last year to 23,000 this year – although of this year’s group, half said dropping out would be temporary.
Registered nurses made up 4,378 of those who opted out between April and July this year, the data also revealed, while 11,937 nurses have left the scheme from April last year to July 2022.
However, the RCN has out that wider nursing staff, including healthcare assistants, may make up a large proportion of the total 66,000, the as the figures only provide a breakdown of registered nurses.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: ‘It is a sad day when the people who care for this country from cradle to grave don’t earn enough to provide for their own future.
‘A lifetime of service should never mean a lifetime of poverty. With living costs soaring, this situation is only going to get worse. Some nurses are having to use food banks just to get by.’
Nurse and RCN member Jodie Elliott, from London, opted out of her NHS pension because she could no longer afford it.
She said it had been an agonising decision that had ‘horrified’ her family, adding: ‘My family had always drilled into me the importance of securing my financial future, but every single month I was getting to the bottom of both my overdrafts despite being extremely careful.
‘I work full-time and despite constantly picking up extra work, I just couldn’t make ends meet. I had no choice but to leave the scheme.’
A government spokesperson said: ‘The NHS Pension Scheme offers significant value and security of guaranteed income in every year of retirement, on some of the most generous terms available from a pension scheme.
‘We are also giving over 1 million NHS workers – including nurses – a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, as recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body.
‘The government’s Energy Price Guarantee will save the typical household around £700 this winter, based on what energy prices would have been under the current price cap – reducing bills by roughly a third.’