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Controversial pensions deal closed

Announcement follows campaign by local RCN officers and representatives

12 Apr 2016

RCN London has welcomed the announcement by Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust that a controversial pensions offer for nursing staff is to be closed to new applicants.

The trust had caused anger by offering Band 5 nurses an uplift in take home pay for those who are not members of the NHS pensions scheme. 

Oxleas employs several hundred RCN members working in mental health, community and learning disability services across Greenwich, Bromley and Bexley in South East London.

The proposal aimed to help the trust deal with the severe shortage of registered nursing staff in the capital, particularly in mental health settings. 

However the RCN called the deal “irresponsible and ill thought through”, saying the trust were encouraging nurses to put their financial futures at risk. Local RCN officers and representatives have been campaigning to have the offer withdrawn. 

Concerns were also raised about the wider knock on effects for the NHS Pension Scheme if the practice spread to other employers. Pensions Minister Baroness Altmann said that “enticing” staff out of schemes would “undermine the whole thrust of the new pension system we are developing”.

After a series of negotiations failed to find agreement, trade unions at the trust formally entered dispute about the deal in March. And at their April Board meeting last Thursday 7 April the trust announced they would now close the scheme to new applicants pending an impact evaluation. 

RCN London Regional Director Bernell Bussue said: “We are pleased that Oxleas, after listening to concerns raised by trade union colleagues, have decided to close this scheme for new applicants. This is the right thing to do. We look forward to working constructively with Oxleas to find a better way forward which properly rewards the front line nursing staff working hard to keep patients safe.

“London faces a severe shortage of registered nursing staff and innovative solutions are needed to address the challenge. However encouraging staff to opt-out of the NHS Pension Scheme is irresponsible and ill thought through. It is worrying that the Government’s NHS pay freeze is leading employers to explore increasingly complicated schemes like this to get the number of permanent staff they need in place.”

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