When can I take my NHS pension?

We look at the position for doctors who have a mixture of benefits in different sections of the NHS pension scheme and when they can draw them. We also cover retiring late.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Tuesday 30 March 2021
Piggybank illustration

The 1995 section has a normal pension age of 60. This means that at age 60 doctors can draw their pension and lump sum benefits at an unreduced rate.

In the 2008 section the normal pension age is 65.

In the 2015 scheme pension age is linked to an individual's state pension age, or age 65 if that is later. Any pension money drawn prior to your pension age are usually subject to an actuarial reduction because they are being paid earlier than anticipated and for longer.

 

Case studies

Hugo

Hugo is a 55-year-old GP and a member of the 1995 section.

He was within 10 years of his normal pension age on 1 April 2012 and therefore he has full protection and did not have to join the 2015 scheme in 2015.

He can continue accruing benefits in the 1995 section and draw his pension and lump sum at age 60 if he wishes.

If Hugo draws his pension prior to age 60 it will be actuarially reduced but he can remain in the scheme beyond age 60 as long as he doesn't exceed 45 years calendar service or age 75. If Hugo retires and returns to work in the NHS he will not be able to rejoin the NHS pension scheme.

 

Kellie

Kellie is a 43-year-old consultant who opted to move to the 2008 section of the scheme under the 'Choice Exercise'.

She was more than 13.5 years from her normal pension age on 1 April 2012 so will not receive any form of protection. She joined the 2015 scheme in 2015.

Having transferred from the 1995 section to the 2008 under the 'Choice Exercise', Kellie has a normal pension age of 65. Kellie accrued 20 years of final salary pension in the 2008 section. This will be linked to her reckonable salary at retirement, which means that she will benefit from any future pay increases. These benefits are called protected rights.

Kellie also started to build up benefits in the 2015 scheme under career average revalued earnings (CARE) accrual. She will be able to draw her protected rights from the 2008 section at age 65. She can either draw her 2015 scheme benefits at the same time (they would be subject to an actuarial reduction) or leave them in the scheme until her state pension age of 67.

If Kellie draws her benefits from the 2008 section and returns to work then providing she has taken the appropriate break in service she would be able to build up further benefits in the 2015 scheme.

 

Moussa

Moussa is a 37-year-old staff grade doctor and was a member of the 1995 section before joining the 2015 scheme.

He was more than 13.5 years from his normal pension age on 1 April 2012 so did not receive any form of protection. He joined the 2015 scheme in 2015. Moussa accrued 10 years of final salary pension in the 1995 section. This will be linked to his actual salary at retirement, which means that he will benefit from any future pay increases.

He will be able to draw his protected rights from the 1995 section at age 60 and either draw his 2015 scheme benefits at the same time or leave them in the scheme until his state pension age of 68.

If Moussa draws his benefits from the 1995 section and returns to work he would not be able to build up further benefits in the 2015 scheme. If he draws his 2015 section benefits at age 60 (with his 1995 Section benefits) then the 2015 scheme benefits would be actuarially reduced.

 

Beatrice

Beatrice is a 22-year-old medical student who will start work in April next year and immediately join the 2015 scheme.

She will accrue benefits under the 2015 scheme CARE method and her state pension age SPA is 68.

Beatrice has a long time until retirement, she realises that the state pension age is likely to increase during her career if the Government increase the state age due to improving mortality rates. ​

 

How to apply for your pension

Access the correct forms and read how to in:

Read further guidance on claiming your pension in:

​You can also read our guidance on taking early retirement.

 

Taking late retirement

The 1995 and 2008 sections and the 2015 scheme have varying normal pension ages at which point the pension can be accessed without reduction.

2015 scheme
  • You can continue to accrue pension benefits beyond the state pension age.
  • You cannot stay in the pension scheme beyond 75.
  • Working beyond the state pension age will result in an enhancement to all of your accrued benefits.
  • The level of enhancement is based on the age that you retire - this needs to be at least one month after you have reached the state pension age.
  • This enhancement can apply when retiring from active pensionable service (contributing to the scheme) or from having opted out but remaining in NHS employment.
2008 section
  • You can continue to accrue pension benefits beyond age 65.
  • You cannot accrue more than 45 calendar years’ service or be pensionable beyond age 75.
  • Working beyond age 65 will result in an enhancement to the benefits which were accrued up to 65.
  • The level of enhancement is based on the age at which retirement takes place after age 65 years and one month.
  • This enhancement can apply when retiring from active pensionable service (contributing to the scheme), from having opted out (not contributing to the scheme but continuing to work in the NHS) and from being unable to contribute as maximum service limits have been reached (but continuing in NHS employment).
  • A break in pensionable service of five years or more results in no further contributions being possible in the 2008 section.
  • Enhancement is only possible where a continuous opt out of five years has taken place, if the opt out happened no earlier than age 60 years and one month. This would result in a pension with enhancement being payable from age 65 years and one month.
  • A break in pensionable service of more than five years beginning before age 60 and one month will not result in an enhancement of service when the pension is taken.
1995 section
  • You can work in the NHS and to continue to accrue pension benefits beyond age 60.
  • You cannot accrue more than 45 calendar years’ service or be pensionable beyond age 75. Mental health officers are restricted earlier due to the faster accrual possible after 20 years worked as a mental health officer.
  • Working beyond age 60 in the 1995 section will not result in an enhancement to the benefits accrued beyond the normal accrual rate.