Trust drops controversial NHS pension opt-out scheme

The CSP has welcomed the decision of an English NHS trust to drop a scheme that offered cash in return for opting out of the NHS pension.

The move by Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust in south east London came after the CSP and other health unions mounted strong opposition to the scheme. This included direct lobbying of the trust and complaints to the NHS Pension regulator.

The decision to close the scheme came after lengthy discussion at the trust’s April board meeting.

Chairman Andrew Trotter said he was ‘mindful of the concerns raised by unions’ with whom the trust had ‘always worked in partnership.’

The scheme, initially offered to future band 5 nurses in return for a higher starting salary, raised concerns that it could be extended to other staff and NHS organisations.

CSP assistant director Peter Finch said: ‘If the scheme had been extended to other staff groups, NHS physio staff could have risked their income in retirement.

‘More broadly it could have undermined the viability of the NHS pension scheme itself if other NHS organisations had followed suit.’

There was a big problem of falling real pay levels in the NHS caused by the government’s continuing policy of wage restraint, which was leading to recruitment difficulties, Mr Finch said.

'Undermining a key staff benefit wasn’t the way to deal with it and could have only further dented morale, which sooner or later will have a negative impact on patient care.'

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