In light of the recent broadcast of the Channel 4 Dispatches programme Too Old to Work, which highlighted the challenges faced by older people seeking employment, NHS Employers has said it believes the business benefits of a mixed-age workforce are now widely recognised in the NHS.
It claims that there is "clear evidence" that both staff turnover and absenteeism are reduced and that motivation and commitment are improved in organisations employing people of all ages.
Carole Smith, age diversity lead at NHS Employers, said: "The Dispatches programme exposed the shocking extent of age discrimination in employment at a time when we can least afford to waste talent, enthusiasm and experience.
"It highlighted how the government's default retirement age may be unhelpful to employers and older workers. Indeed, a number of NHS organisations no longer use it. Many feel that making people retire at a prescribed age when they do not wish to is no longer helpful, especially given the need to retain talent and to encourage people to stay in work longer.
"The Dispatches programme also highlighted how older workers can face discrimination. We know, however, that many NHS employers have taken positive steps to change attitudes, to offer flexible employment arrangements for staff of all ages and to provide attractive opportunities for those seeking a second career later in life."
One good practice case study is Sheffield PCT. Chris Stocks, Head of Human Resources at the PCT, said: "After we'd fully assessed the legislation, the board – fully supported by the trade unions – agreed to do away with the default retirement age of 65 and give employees the choice of working longer if they so wanted.
"We then wrote out to staff and briefed managers on the reasons and practical implications. The move has been well received by staff."