The ageing workorce in the NHS

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2016 Health Care Service Group Conference
11 December 2015

Conference notes with concern that there is inadequate planning to mitigate the impact of an ageing workforce in the NHS. It is predicted that by 2020 one third of the workforce will be aged over 50, whilst the abolition of the default retirement age and the impact of low wages on future pension income mean that many staff will have no choice but to work longer, whilst coping with age-related ill health.

For women staff there are gender specific conditions, such as pelvic organ prolapse, menopause, musculoskeletal injuries and osteoporosis, which create additional barriers to working in a safe and healthy environment.

In addition, more than half of these older workers will have caring responsibilities outside of the workplace, exacerbating both the physical and mental stress they experience, particularly when required to work 12 hour shifts, followed by long periods of homecare.

Conference welcomes the work of the Working Longer Group in producing the Age Awareness toolkit, and believes that action must be taken now to support older workers, and to value the skills, experience and stability which they bring to the workplace.

Conference therefore calls on the SGE to:

(1) work with all appropriate employer bodies to address:

i)the role which occupational health should have in maintaining fitness for work amongst older workers;

ii)what adjustments are needed to ensure that older employees are able to continue working safely and healthily, taking into account age-related concerns;

iii)how flexible working can best be used to support older workers with age-related conditions and/or caring responsibilities.

(2) raise awareness of the Age Awareness toolkit, and encourage regions and branches to use the toolkit in discussions with employers in supporting our older members to work in a healthy and safe environment.