Preparing employees for their retirement is good practice – and so is recognising that some staff will offer a valuable resource after they have retired, reports Stuart Shepherd

Looking after the needs of staff approaching the end of their career has always been a matter of good employment practice. With the advent of the NHS constitution it has become a commitment. Maintaining the health and wellbeing of employees extends to staff in the later stages of their working lives, recognising the need to support their preparation for the transition from work to retirement.

For some time now many NHS organisations have sought to make provision for this through pre-retirement courses. Not all have, however. Where arrangements are made the emphasis is often on personal finances with little or no consideration of the emotional and psychological impact of retirement.

“A lot of independent financial advisers offer pre-retirement seminars at little or no cost to NHS trusts,” says Anthea Graham, NHS Retirement Fellowship development officer for the North of England. “At the same time they are able to display their own financial management and will-writing services.”

Ms Graham continues: “The approach that we take in the pre-retirement courses we offer, however, which look equally at financial and legal considerations as well as lifestyle challenges and opportunities, is on an information basis only and without vested interest.”

In the course, which it currently delivers to 15 trusts, the fellowship addresses the two major concerns that preoccupy participants - how to manage on a reduced income and how to meaningfully fill all the time they have available to them.

Sense of belonging

“As well as NHS and state pensions, people are now thinking about the smaller returns they are getting from savings that may well form part of a budget stretching over 20-25 years,” says fellowship pre-retirement course facilitator Terry Prince.

During the first few years of retirement the long planned trips to see family on the other side of the world or the grand landscaping or refurbishment projects can take up some of the new leisure time. But once that is all done and dusted…

“The workplace dictates your lifestyle to a very large extent,” says Mr Prince. “It determines when you get up, have your lunch and take your holiday. This, and the sense of belonging that comes with it, is comforting for many people. Take it away and on average there is isolation and 2,000 hours a year to be filled. The point I make, though, is that there has never been so much to do in the third age.”

Andrew Moss, fellowship press officer and former NHS trust communications manager, believes current health service managers have a clear interest in supporting not only staff preparing to retire but also those actually in retirement.

“NHS retirees, be they NHS Retirement Fellowship members or not, can be strong advocates for their local trusts,” he says.

“I don’t think any employee should be simply cast adrift when they finish work. Management ought to be concerned that they are leaving with a good feeling about the hospital, ambulance trust or organisation that employed them for as many as 30 years.

“Often they are or go on to become influential community figures whose views on the state of healthcare provision are heard by a lot of people. Kept abreast of developments, through a network such as their fellowship branch, they can be of enormous benefit to the standing of the local NHS.”

Staff approaching and in retirement would appear to be a resource worth hanging on to and investing in. As fellowship director Mike Brown and Dean Royles, workforce director of NHS North West and designated fellowship link officer point out, foundation trusts provide an “exciting opportunity for engaging more effectively with local communities through the membership model and boards of governors, many of whom will be former NHS employees”.

They say that one way to deliver the foundation trust vision is for fellowship branch members to work with their local foundation trust: “They can stand and vote in elections for governors, put themselves forward for appointment as chair or non-executives [and] can expect to be consulted on plans for its services and future development.”

NHS Retirement Fellowship

The NHS Retirement Fellowship was formed in the 1970s and has 14,000 members across the UK in 162 branches. The registered charity promotes the welfare and interests of NHS retirees and members enjoy a wide range of leisure and social activities.

Chair elect Vic Griffiths qualified as a radiographer, went on to become a radiology manager and ended his 40 years of NHS service at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals foundation trust.

“The fellowship keeps people in touch with old friends and helps them make new ones,” he says. “They still care passionately about the service they worked with for so long and keep involved through volunteering, as members and governors. The goodwill is reciprocated at several of our branches, with grants for meeting room hire and administrative support.”

Mr Griffiths continues: “But we could still be much better known. At a recent branch anniversary celebration it became clear that the chief executive thought this was an ad hoc gathering. He had never heard of the NHS Retirement Fellowship.”