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NHS Pension Options

Q: I am a 43-year-old GP principal (partner in a GMS practice). I have worked in the NHS since 1992. I am planning to leave my practice in three to four years' time but I have not decided my final career change yet. My options are to just do locum and out-of-hours sessions, work abroad as a GP or to leave medicine completely. What would happen to my NHS pension? I feel that I am self-sufficient financially. Can I leave the NHS and start drawing my pension at 50 or 55 years old?

A: If you do locum and out-of-hours work for a registered NHS Pension Scheme (NHSPS) employing authority, it is possible to continue contributing to the NHSPS and accruing further benefits.

Where members leave the NHSPS and do not take their benefits immediately, the accrued benefits are deferred and increased each year (until taken) in line with inflation, as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI).

Members who joined the NHSPS prior to 1 April 2008 will be in the 1995 Section (unless they opt to join the 2008 Section as part of the NHS Pension Choice Exercise). The 1995 Section has a normal pension age (NPA) of 60 while the NPA for the 2008 Section is 65.

Members of the 1995 Section who joined before April 2006 have a contractual right to be able to take their pension benefits from age 50 onwards (otherwise the minimum pension age is 55). Benefits taken before the NPA of 60 would be subject to an actuarial reduction to reflect the fact that benefits are being taken earlier than anticipated.

Annual RPI increases do not apply to benefits in payment before age 55, but would be applied to benefits in payment from age 55 onwards (including an increase to take account of changes since benefits were first awarded).

Given the potential financial implications of a career change, I would recommend that you speak to your financial adviser to discuss the most appropriate course of action for your personal circumstances.

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