Mental health officer status in the 2015 NHS pension scheme

This page is relevant to you if you have joined the 2015 NHS pension scheme and you also have membership in the 1995 and 2008 sections of the scheme with mental health officer status.

Location: UK
Audience: Consultants SAS doctors GPs
Updated: Monday 7 September 2020
Piggybank illustration

Mental health officers joining the 2015 scheme

Mental health officer (MHO) status is a benefit that was awarded to 1995 section members working full or part-time in a hospital for patients suffering from mental disorders.

In order to qualify for and retain MHO status it is necessary to spend substantially the whole of your time in the direct treatment or care of patients suffering from mental disorders.

 

MHO status benefits protection and uniform accrual

MHO status was withdrawn to new entrants in 2015.

MHO members who are not eligible for full protection have moved to the 2015 pension scheme in 2015, or at a specified later date if you have tapered protection.

View the NHS tapered protection calculator if you’re not sure of your protections.

On moving to the 2015 scheme you will accrue no further MHO benefits because that provision only applies in the 1995 section of the scheme.

MHOs transferring to the 2015 scheme do receive a degree of protection of their benefits from something called uniform accrual, which applies in any circumstance in which you leave the 1995 section.

If you have tapered protection the following details how your accrued 1995 section benefits will be calculated and when they will be payable.

 

Accessing your MHO benefits from age five

If you have remained in a role that would have qualified for MHO status you will be able to access your accrued benefits, unreduced, from age 55 so long as the following conditions are met:

  1. you have completed at least 20 calendar years' of service in a MHO post (including posts which would have qualified for MHO status had you not joined the 2015 scheme)
  2. you have not had a break in pensionable service of five years or more
  3. you are in a post that would have qualified for MHO status (had you been able to remain in the 1995 section) at the time of retirement
  4. you retire from all NHS posts held. 

 

Accessing your MHO benefits when you don’t meet the criteria

  • You will have access to your 1995 section benefits earlier than age 60 but subject to actuarial reduction depending on the age you access them.
  • Uniform accrual may still apply to the calculation of the benefits if it produces a better outcome. 

Maximum service with MHO status

As a member with accrued 1995 section benefits you will no longer have a maximum service restriction and can continue accruing benefits beyond 45 years of service.

This ability will only cease on accessing your accrued 1995 section benefits as you will not be able to continue contributing to the 2015 scheme (unless you have had a break in pensionable service of five years or more).

 

Working in MHO posts outside of the NHS

If you carried out MHO type work outside of the NHS, this can be used to count towards the 20 year period required to access your accrued 1995 section benefits from age 55.

Any such service will not count toward the calculation of your accrued 1995 section pension.

If you undertook any of the following work you can apply for this service to be treated as qualifying MHO service:

  • work that satisfies the MHO criteria where duties are performed in UK based non-NHS institutions
  • work that satisfies the MHO criteria where duties are performed overseas
  • NHS work that satisfies the MHO criteria where pensionable service has been refunded or transferred out
  • NHS work that satisfies the MHO criteria where you did not contribute to the pension scheme.

The NHS pensions agencies require written evidence of your duties during this non-NHS work, detailing the proportion of work carried out in the direct treatment or care of patients suffering from mental disorders.

The NHS pensions agencies will then determine if the work qualifies. The BMA pensions department can assist you with these enquiries.

Annual allowance

The annual allowance is a restriction placed on the amount of tax relief you can receive as a result of contributing to a pension scheme.

As a 2015 scheme member with accrued 1995 section benefits you will need to undertake two calculations to check whether the growth in your NHS benefits have exceeded the annual allowance threshold.

The first will be in relation to your accrued 1995 section MHO benefits which will continue to grow as they will be linked to your current pay (so long as you have not had a break in pensionable service of five years or more) or to the pay you had when you last worked in a MHO qualifying post (the better of which will be used as per the uniform accrual rules).

The second will be in relation to your ongoing 2015 career average revalued earnings scheme accrual.

The chances of exceeding the annual allowance are greater if you are buying added years or additional pension, or have recently received a significant pay rise or additional pensionable award ie, a clinical excellence award.

Annual allowance guidance 

 

Returning to work after accessing accrued 1995 MHO benefits

  • You will not be able to continue contributing to the 2015 scheme.
  • The exception to this is where you have had a break in service of five years or more before accessing your accrued 1995 section benefits. This break means that you will have lost the final salary link and can continue contributing to the 2015 scheme on returning to work.
  • If you are unable to rejoin the scheme, it is possible to contribute to a personal pension or stakeholder pension. Your employer is required to enrol you into a pension scheme.
  • When an MHO has 20 years or more MHO service and returns to what would have been a MHO post within five years of leaving, even for just one day, they can access their accrued 1995 section benefits in full from age 55 if the retirement application is submitted, via your employer, on the day(s) when pensionable work is undertaken.

 

Rules on returning to work after accessing your 1995 MHO benefits

It is necessary to take a break in service of 24 hours.

You must not exceed 16 hours NHS work per week in the first calendar month following re-employment.

At the end of this month you can increase your hours. 

Alternatively you can take a break in service of one calendar month before returning to any level of work.

If you return to NHS work before age 60 then your pension may be subject to abatement.