Can I join the 2015 NHS pension scheme?

You may be questioning whether you can join the NHS pension scheme if you left employment and wish to return. You may also be a new doctor and want to know more about the available pension schemes.

Location: England
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Monday 7 September 2020
Piggybank illustration

Eligibility to join the NHS pension scheme

There are two NHS pension schemes: once comprising the 1995 and 2008 sections and one for the 2015 career average revalued earnings scheme (CARE).

You will not be able to rejoin the NHS pension scheme if:

  • you retired from the 1995 section without having to join the 2015 scheme
  • you have retired from the 1995 section, having transitioned to the 2015 scheme, with a 'final salary' link
  • you have already achieved 45 calendar years of membership (for both 1995 and 2008 section and 2015 scheme members).

Otherwise, you can join/rejoin the scheme if you are between the ages of 16 and 75. Which scheme you will join will depend on whether you are a first time joiner or an eligible rejoiner.

First time joiners are eligible for membership of the 2015 scheme if they are between the ages of 16 and 75 and fall into one of the following categories:

  • directly employed by the NHS
  • self employed GP
  • GP practice employee
  • medical, dental or ophthalmic practitioner, including trainees
  • freelance locum GP
  • employee working for an approved employer (subject to satisfying the conditions of the direction arrangements – see below)
  • employee of an independent provider holding a standard APMS (alternative provider of medical services) contract or local authority NHS contract. 

 

Joining a pension scheme when you start work

Membership of an NHS pension scheme is automatic if you are directly employed by the NHS (this includes salaried GPs/type 2 GPs), or if you are a GP principal (Type 1) and are eligible to join/rejoin.

If you are eligible to join/rejoin but do not wish to you can 'opt out' by completing a form to this effect.

Membership of the scheme is available but not automatic if you are working as a GP locum. 

​Membership of the scheme is available but not automatic if you are working for a non-NHS body which has ‘direction’ status. 

 

Which NHS pension scheme you will join

If you are a protected member of the 1995 or 2008 sections and are rejoining without having had a break of five years or more (and are under the normal pension age of 60 for 1995 section members) you can rejoin your protected section.

If you are not a protected member of the 1995 or 2008 section but are rejoining within five years (and are under the normal pension age of 60 for 1995 section members) you are only able to resume membership of the original section of the scheme which you left if you have not passed your transition date. If your transition date has passed or if you have had a break of more than five years then you will join the 2015 scheme.

If you were contributing to the 1995 or 2008 sections and took a refund of contributions or transferred your pension rights to another provider you will join the 2015 scheme even if you rejoin within five years of leaving.

If you are joining the NHS for the first time and are eligible to join you will join the 2015 scheme.

 

Joining a pension scheme as a secondary care locum doctor

If you are working directly for the NHS this work is pensionable if you are eligible to join a NHS pension scheme.

Please note that any work contracted through a third party, such as a locum agency, will not be pensionable in either of the NHS pension schemes.

 

Joining a pension scheme as a GP locum

You are eligible to join the NHS pension scheme.

However, the onus is on you to complete the GP locum forms within the deadline of 10 weeks of completing the work in order to pension those earnings in the scheme.

You are not able to join the NHS pension scheme if you have set yourself up as a limited company on an individual basis.

GP locum pensions guidance

 

If you transfer to a private provider

If you are subject to a compulsory transfer your employment should be subject to the 'fair deal' agreement. This means that you can continue in the NHS pension scheme.

The fair deal arrangement