The HMRC does not require that members opt out of the NHS Pension Scheme in order to retain Fixed Protection.
However, certain groups such as MHOs and GPs are at greater risk of exceeding Benefit Accrual and thus losing Fixed Protection through continued scheme membership. As such, some members are deciding to opt out of continued membership following an application for Fixed Protection.
However, it should be noted that in order to be able to retire before age 60 a MHO needs to be retiring from active NHS pensionable service in a MHO qualifying role. Thus, it is necessary to resume scheme membership if MHO benefits are to be drawn between ages 55 and 60.
If a member opts back into the scheme outside of 12 months (but within 5 years) it is possible that the act of opting back in will be considered as joining a ’new scheme’ and thus Fixed Protection could be lost.
An alternative to this would be to opt back into the scheme every 11 months (so that it is not considered that a ’new scheme’ is being joined and Fixed Protection automatically lost) but this of itself is no guarantee of retaining Fixed Protection as it is possible that even one months membership could cause a growth in benefits that could exceed CPI (dependant on individual circumstances).
The NHS Pension Scheme treats scheme membership differently if a member rejoins within 12 months of leaving with preserved benefits. In this case the membership is considered as continuous. If a member rejoins after 12 months the accrual of benefits is treated separately (unless at retirement/death it would be more beneficial to treat the two periods as continuous).
Update note: information for Mental Health Officers on the method of testing pension growth for the reduced Annual Allowance.
The way in which benefits are calculated for active Mental Health Officers, when testing against the reduced Annual Allowance, does not include the ’Uniform Accrual’ calculation.
If you are under age 55 and have 21 plus years as a MHO, your doubled years of service will be fully taken into account. If you have concerns about previous guidance or calculations provided, please contact the BMA Pensions Department