NHS Employers is launching a major new awareness campaign to highlight the essential role that older people will play in the future workforce.
NHS Trusts are being urged to draw up strategies to ensure they can fill vacancies in the future against a backdrop of a major shift in the age distribution of the population.
The campaign was launched at the annual "HR in the NHS" conference today.
Carole Smith, NHS Employers project manager for age diversity in the workforce, said: “We have an ageing population and workforce and proportionally fewer school leavers in the available labour market.
"Previously, the NHS has always relied on recruiting people straight from school or further education but that is becoming more difficult to do."
Over the next few months, NHS organisations will be urged to evaluate existing HR policies and to review the age profile of their workforce.
They will then be advised to have board-level discussions about how they can address issues identified before drawing up an age diversity strategy and action plan.
"We need to be employing more staff for the NHS but with the post-war ‘baby boom’ generation reaching their 50s and a declining birth rate, employers are going to have to think about how they both attract older workers and retain them," said Smith.
"Older people have lots of life and work experience and are therefore particularly well suited for employment in the NHS. We want to encourage them to join the NHS and give them the support to remain there.
"Many older people like to have a good work-life balance and may want to work part-time but they also want to be given new opportunities and challenges," she said.
Strategies will also need to take into account of age discrimination legislation that comes into force next year and, for instance, means employers can no longer state age preferences on a job advert. Strategies should take into account not just employment, but also promotional opportunities and access to vocational training.