NHS scraps controversial cash-for-pension offer

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An NHS trust has closed a deal it offered new nurses to opt out of the generous NHS scheme in favour of a higher salary.

The Oxleas Foundation Trust in south east London was offering newly-qualified ‘band 5’ nurses the choice of being paid money that would go into the scheme. It was understood staff were still auto-enroled into a pension, but on less generous terms.

Nearly 100 nurses were recruited as a result of the scheme, says the trust.

The scheme was subsequently referred to The Pensions Regulator and has now been scrapped for new joiners, although staff who took up the scheme will have the terms of the deal honoured.

A statement from the trust says: “The decision to close the scheme was taken by our board of directors at our April meeting where they considered representations by trade union colleagues.

“While the board remains satisfied that the scheme is both legal and appropriate, as we have achieved our aim of increasing our permanent staff numbers, we have closed the scheme to new applicants and will evaluate its impact.”

Acting chief executive Ben Travis says: “We have taken into account the concerns raised by trade union colleagues and wish to maintain our long standing excellent relations and partnership working with them. We set up this scheme as a means to recruit permanent staff rather than needing to rely on agency staff as we believe this improves patient care.

“It has helped us achieve this goal and we are now going to close the scheme to evaluate its impact.”

It is against auto-enrolment rules for employers to offer inducements to opt out of a scheme.