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Ask the experts: What ill-health retirement benefits are due to a GP principal who has had to resign due to long-term health problems?

Kevin Quinn explains that the level of benefits paid out depends on whether a GP applied before, or after, their last day of pensionable service.

QUESTION: I am a 38-year-old GP principal who became unable to work on 8 August 2011 due to physical health problems. I am in the 1995 Section of the NHS Pension Scheme with 14 years contributions and four and a half added years. Unfortunately In August 2012 after 12 months drawings I had to resign from the practice as per the partnership agreement.

I am currently still off sick and treatment is ongoing. There is the distinct possibility that I might not be able to get back to work as a doctor again. However, it may well be another 12 to 24 months before I know for sure. My last superannuation contributions will have been in August 2012.

Is there a set time frame within which I would need to apply for ill-health benefits in order to be considered for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 benefits? Or can I apply retrospectively given my ill health is ongoing and has been continuous so as not to be disadvantaged, ie treated as a deferred member?

ANSWER: In order to qualify for ill-health retirement benefits, the last day of scheme membership for a member of the NHS Pension Scheme (NHSPS) 1995 Section must be before age 60. The usual procedure is that self-employed GP members would make the application by completing and submitting Form AW33E while they are still on the NHS performers list (even if the GP is on sick leave at the time). In other words, the ill-health pension benefits application would normally be made before the GP has resigned or been asked to leave their partnership.

This is because applications to retire on ill health grounds may be treated differently if made after a members’ last day of active pensionable service. Applications made before leaving are assessed against both the Tier 1 (lower) and Tier 2 (upper) criteria. Subject to the outcome of the assessment, benefits are then paid at the appropriate level.  However, where applications are made after leaving, the assessment will normally be made against the Tier 2 (upper) criteria but even if successful the member will receive only Tier 1 (lower) benefits.

Given the unusual circumstances described, you could make your application on the basis of being a current scheme member by completing Form AW33E to see what the response from NHSPS is.  If you are a member of the BMA, you could also seek guidance and help from its pension team.

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