DHSC consults on NHS Pension Scheme Covid-19 easement extension

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has launched a consultation on plans to continue the temporary NHS Pension Scheme easements in the Coronavirus Act 2020 until 31 October 2022.

The consultation, which is running for 2 weeks until 1 March 2022, will seek views on continuing the ‘retire and return’ easements introduced amid the onset of the pandemic, via amendments to NHS Pension Scheme regulations.

These easements, which are currently scheduled to end on 24 March 2022, allow retired and partially retired staff to return to work in the NHS or increase their working commitments without having their pension benefits suspended.

Industry experts have previously urged the government to extend the easements, after a freedom of information request from Quilter revealed that over 7,000 NHS staff could be at risk of a pension penalty, prompting concerns of a potential "NHS exodus".

Quilter NHS pensions expert, Graham Crossley, has since welcomed the government consultation, stating that it is "laudable that the DHSC has read and acted on these warnings including our letter to the Health Secretary which cautioned the government that there could be an NHS exodus if the return of abatement is not extended beyond March 2022".

However, Crossley warned that there will be some staff who have already left the NHS in anticipation of there being no change to these rules, suggesting that "it’s a shame it has taken so long to get here".

"Many medical staff will be buoyed by the opportunity to keep helping the NHS at this critical time," he explained.

"However, there are concerns around the 31 October 2022 extension. The existing March deadline caused headaches with work force planning in January and February.

"By moving the deadline to October, it gives doctors and nurses very little sense of security and it risks similar job planning issues in August. But this is no doubt good news for the NHS."

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