General practitioner Pensions

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GP pension flexibilities FAQs

Answering queries for doctors who work mainly in primary care but who have responsibilities in both primary and secondary care.

 

I have worked both as a primary and as a secondary care doctor. How does this affect my NHS pension?

In the 1995 and 2008 sections of the NHS pension scheme the way in which your benefits are calculated depends on whether you are working in primary or secondary care. Primary care doctors’ benefits are calculated on a career average revalued earnings (CARE) basis, while secondary care doctors’ benefits are calculated on a final salary basis.

If you have mixed service, where you have worked in primary care as well as in secondary care (for example as a House Officer, Senior House Officer, Registrar, Clinical Assistant etc),  then your pension may be calculated with reference to both the final salary and CARE methods.

Alternatively, and if more beneficial, some periods of secondary care service can be calculated via the CARE method.

The option to automatically be paid the better of final salary or CARE benefits in relation to secondary care service is known as the GP pension flexibilities.

 

How do the GP pension flexibilities work?

The GP pension flexibilities enable certain periods of your secondary care service to be treated as though they were primary care for the purposes of the pension scheme.   This means that the pensionable earnings received in these secondary care posts may be dynamised to provide CARE benefits if more beneficial.

The pensions agencies will automatically compare the benefits available using both the final salary method and the CARE method, and pay you the highest pension. This is known as a ‘no detriment’ test.

 

What types of secondary care service can be converted to provide CARE benefits?

Only the following types of secondary care service can be converted using the flexibilities:

  • secondary care service of any length undertaken before primary care service
  • secondary care service which is concurrent with primary care service
  • secondary care service of up to 365 calendar days which comes after your primary care service terminated

 

What types of secondary care service cannot be converted to provide CARE benefits?

  • secondary care service which is sandwiched between periods of primary care service, but not concurrent, will always provide final salary benefits 
  • secondary care service of 365 calendar days duration or more which is undertaken after ceasing to be a primary care doctor, will always provide final salary benefits

 

Are there any circumstances where my secondary care service will always provide CARE benefits?

This will only apply where you work concurrently in secondary care and primary care and your secondary care service produces less than 365 days of scaled service. Further information on scaled service is available in our ‘pensionable service’ FAQ.

 

Can I choose how the flexibilities apply?

No. The most favourable option will automatically be put into payment by the relevant pensions agency.

 

Can periods of primary care service be converted to provide final salary benefits?

No.  Primary care service can only provide CARE benefits.

 

How are my added years treated?

This depends on what type of added years you purchased.

If you purchased ‘old style’ added years these will either be credited to your final salary or CARE benefits depending on your job at the date of purchase.

If you purchased ‘new style’ added years these will apply to all your service from the date of the purchase.  If you have worked in both primary and secondary care your added years will potentially provide both final salary and CARE benefits.

 

Can the added years be subject to the GP pension flexibilities? 

Yes.  The added years will be subject to the same flexibilities that apply to the service undertaken during the period that they are being purchased.

 

How do the flexibilities apply if I worked in secondary care before working primary care?

If your pre-GP secondary care service is less than 10 scaled years the following options are available in relation to that service:

  • to provide final salary benefits, or
  • the earnings from this service can be added to your dynamised earnings and treated as if they were GP income, or
  • the GP pension can be increased in proportion to the amount of pre-GP work undertaken by a fraction which represents total NHS service (secondary care + GP) divided by GP service (example below)

If you are a member of the 1995 section and have worked for three years in secondary care, followed by 37 years as a GP, assuming an accrued GP pension of £25,200 this would be increased as follows:

Hospital Service   3 years
GP service   37 years
Total service   40 years
Enhancement factor  40/37

Pension = £25,200 x 40/37 = £27,243
Lump sum (3 x pension) = £81,729 (prior to any commutation)

If your pre-GP secondary care service is more than 10 scaled years the following options are available in relation to that service:

  • to provide final salary benefits, or
  • the earnings from this service can be added to your dynamised earnings and treated as if they were GP income.

If you have more than 10 scaled years of pre-GP service you are not able to increase your GP pension by the fraction quoted in the example above. 

 

How do the flexibilities apply if I worked in secondary care concurrently with working in primary care?

If your concurrent secondary care service scales to less than one year (365 days) then the earnings from this employment will be treated as GP earnings and be subject to dynamising.

If your concurrent secondary care service scales to more than one year (365 days) the following options are available in relation to that service:

  • to provide final salary benefits, or
  • the earnings from this service can be added to your dynamised  earnings and treated as if they were GP income.

 

How do the flexibilities apply if I worked in secondary care after ceasing to work in primary care?

If your post primary care service is for less than 365 calendar days, the earnings from this employment will be treated as GP earnings and be subject to dynamising.

If your post primary care service is for more than 365 calendar days, your benefits from this post will be calculated with reference to the final salary method.

If you cease to practise as a GP but continue to work as a NHS secondary care doctor, your previous GP benefits will continue to be dynamised until retirement.

 

How do the flexibilities apply if I have a period of secondary care service which is sandwiched between periods of primary care work?

If you have periods of secondary care service which do not pre-date your first GP post and are not concurrent with your GP work this is known as ‘sandwiched’ secondary care service.  The pension accrued during this type of secondary care service will be calculated using the final salary method but will increase in line with dynamising rather than just with pensions increase.  Dynamising is based on pension increase (currently CPI) plus 1.5%.

The GP pension flexibilities do not apply to this type of service.

 

I currently work as a GP in the NHS but I have transferred service into the NHS pension scheme from a previous employment.   How will the transferred service be treated?

If the transfer was received while you were working in primary care the transfer value will be treated as a pay credit and dynamised.

If the transfer was received while you were working in secondary care the transfer value can be treated as either a service credit (final salary benefits) or as a pay credit (CARE benefits), depending on which method provides the better pension benefits.

 

Will pensions increase apply to any pre-GP or sandwiched service which continues to provide final salary benefits?

Yes.  Please refer to our FAQ on ‘Increases to pensions’ for further information.

 

Am I able to request a pension estimate detailing the different options?

No.  The calculations are complex and depending on which career path you follow between now and retirement it could be the case that the most beneficial method of calculating your pension now will not necessarily continue to be the best method at the time of your retirement. 

However the pensions’ agencies will perform the separate calculations at retirement.  Any estimate received prior to retirement will detail the final salary and CARE benefits due at that time.