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Senior nurses must retire or lose their pension after working in Covid wards

A new wave of departures of senior health workers is imminent as penal pension rules put pressure on the already short-staffed NHS.

Thousands of the most experienced nurses will be punished for coming out of retirement to help in the fight against coronavirus, and pulling their pension down if they continue to work.

A total of 7,470 health professionals could be forced to retire on March 25, when rules suspended during the pandemic come into force again, figures from a request for freedom of information have confirmed.

This is happening amid mass shortages of staff due to Covid isolation rules, which left nearly six million people waiting for care in the UK in early January. A report showed that there were 93,000 vacancies in the health care system.

The government said it would write to those affected, but industry experts warned it was too late. Last week, Conservative MP Edward Argar said the situation was “under review” when the opposition asked them.

Graham Crossley of wealth manager Quilter, who submitted FoI, said it was “ridiculous” to punish people for working, especially since those affected are senior executives with decades of experience.

“It’s absolutely wild. These are exactly the people you want to care for others during the pandemic,” he said.

Sarah Coates *, 55, a nurse from south-west London who has worked for the NHS for 37 years, was due to retire in June but returned to tackle Covid.

She now fears she may be forced out unless she is willing to lose part of her pension. “I came back to help,” she said. “They behave as if they do not need us, but many of the Covid beds are run by retired nurses.”

Pension “deduction” applies to nurses, midwives, physiotherapists and psychiatric employees who can retire at the age of 55 without losing any of their pension.

However, their pension will be reduced if they continue to work and their pension and NHS earnings exceed their early retirement earnings. It was suspended as part of the Coronavirus Act 2020.

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