Pensionable service guide for secondary care doctors

This guidance covers what elements of your service and time are contributing to your NHS pension, what reckonable pay is, what whole-time is defined as and how your final pension pot is calculated.

Location: UK
Audience: SAS doctors Consultants Junior doctors
Last reviewed: 7 October 2020
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Which elements of my pay are pensionable?

Generally speaking, income is treated as pensionable if it is regular, likely to continue and relates to normal duties.

Pensionable income currently includes:

  • basic salary
  • distinction awards
  • discretionary points
  • intensity payments/on call supplements
  • clinical excellence awards
  • availability supplements
  • high-cost living area allowance
  • additional income from clinical or medical director posts
  • for junior doctors, basic pay up to 40 hours per week
  • chief officer supplements for doctors in public health medicine
  • domiciliary visit fees. 

Non-pensionable income includes:

  • private income
  • banding supplements for junior doctors
  • sessions/programmed activities beyond whole-time or maximum part-time.

Honorary appointments are non pensionable. However, if you concurrently hold a pensionable employment in the NHS, any distinction award attached to the honorary appointment can be pensionable.

Income from locum work is pensionable, provided you are contracted to work directly for an NHS employer. Income from locum work carried out via agencies is not pensionable.


Service that does not count as pensionable

The following service is not pensionable in the NHS pension scheme:

  • hours, sessions or programmed activities (PAs) in excess of whole-time employment for your job
  • employment via an agency
  • honorary post (where unpaid will not accrue pensionable service)
  • self employed doctors (other than GPs and dental practitioners)
  • disallowed days as a result of industrial action
  • periods of sickness without pensionable pay
  • periods of unpaid maternity where pension contributions have not been paid.


Qualifying service

Qualifying service refers to the calendar days that you have contributed to the NHS pension scheme irrespective of whether you have worked whole time or part-time.

This type of service is used to determine your eligibility for scheme benefits including:

  • the minimum service required to qualify for preserved benefits (two years)
  • the maximum service limits for members is 45 years overall, except members with MHO (mental health officer) status who remain restricted to 40 years at age 55, then 45 years overall
  • 20 years as a MHO, enabling doubling of subsequent service to commence
  • the amount of additional service granted (ie, enhancement) when retiring early on the grounds of ill health. 

Please note that there is no upper service limit in the 2015 scheme.


Reckonable service and pay

Reckonable/scaled service refers to service which has been reduced to take account of part-time working. For example, if you were to work for 10 years at 50% of whole-time you will have accrued five reckonable/scaled years of service.

Reckonable pay is the average of the best three consecutive years’ pensionable pay out of the final 10 years prior to retirement.

Before deciding the best three consecutive years’ pay, each year’s pay will first be revalued in line with the Pensions (Increase) Act. The Pensions (Increase) Act currently links increases in pensions to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

Reckonable pay cannot predate 1 April 2008.

If less than one year’s pay is available, your reckonable pay will be calculated as per the following example:

Pensionable service 243 days

Notional whole-time equivalent earnings during pensionable service £35,000

Reckonable pay 365/243 x £35,000 = £52,572

If between one and three years’ pay is available, your reckonable pay will be calculated as per the following example:

Pensionable service 806 days

Notional whole-time equivalent earnings during total pensionable service £116,090

Reckonable pay 365/806 x £116,090 = £52,572


What is whole time service?

The maximum number of sessions, programmed activities or hours that can be treated as whole time is determined by your job:

  • junior doctors - 40 hours per week
  • specialty doctors, associate specialist or consultants on the new contracts - 10 programmed activities per week
  • consultants on the old contract - 11 sessions per week
  • clinical assistants - 11 sessions per week. 

You can pay pension contributions on the maximum number of programmed activities, sessions or hours detailed above.

​If you are working for more than the permitted maximum pensionable hours the excess hours are ignored for pension purposes, and you will not pay pension contributions on them.


What if I have more than one job?

If you have more than one pensionable NHS job, your pensionable pay is calculated with reference to each employment separately. The number of hours worked in each employment is taken into consideration.

An example of this is as follows:

Employment one Employment two
Programmed activities 6/10 2/10
Whole time pensionable pay £79,000 £95,000

Total number of PAs per week: 8

Salary employment 1: £ 79,000 X 6/8 = £ 59,250
Salary employment 2: £ 95,000 X 2/8 = £ 23,750

Pensionable pay = £83,000