NHS trusts could have to pay higher pension contributions for some staff groups so they can retire earlier, HSJ has learned.

A review group set up to examine the impact of NHS staff working longer will investigate the idea of NHS trusts paying more to offset the costs of early retirement for selected groups.

The Working Longer Review, which will include representatives from NHS Employers, trade unions and the Department of Health, will meet for the first time next month as part of a year-long investigation.

Under the government’s controversial reforms of the NHS Pension Scheme the retirement age for staff will be linked to the state pension age from 2015. This is set to rise to 66 by 2020, 67 by 2036 and 68 by 2046.

The review group will gather evidence and views on what the impact of an ageing workforce might be and crucially how to mitigate any potential problems.

It will focus on equal pay issues, patient safety and the health and wellbeing of staff who will have to work longer.

Among the objectives set for the group include a plan to “explore the option” of early retirement costs being paid by employers for some staff “identified as suffering a detriment for working longer with particular reference to staff in frontline and demanding roles”.

The review will aim to identify categories of workers for which working longer could produce particular challenges – either for their own health and wellbeing or for patient safety.

It will look at how NHS trusts could change their practices and behaviours to support an older workforce. It could include flexible careers to allow some staff to be moved away from frontline duties as they near retirement age.

Managers in Partnership chief executive Jon Restell warned the NHS was not prepared for some of the ways an ageing workforce would need to be managed.

He said: “The system, if this was really going to work, would need to accommodate an ageing workforce and we will need a lot more flexibility than we currently have.”

A DH spokesman said the review could consider “employer funded contribution rates to offset the cost of early retirement or flexibility for frontline staff to take on alternative roles to allow them to work to their pension age if they want”.