Understanding your retirement options

In this section

  • How to retire and types of retirement available
  • Application form and guidance
  • What happens next

It’s always worth taking some time to explore your retirement options – and to plan so that you’re well prepared for your retirement. This guide will help you explore your options and make the choices that suit your needs.  

How do I retire?

Work out when you can retire

Your normal pension age depends on which scheme (or schemes) you're in.  The earliest you can take benefits from your scheme is when you reach the minimum pension age, unless you're granted ill health benefits.

Check your pension ages:

 1995 Section2008 Section2015 Scheme
Normal pension age - the age you can expect to retire with your benefits paid in full60 (55 for special class and MHO)65State pension age, or 65 - whatever is later
Maximum pension age - the latest age you can claim your pension75 (65 for special class and MHO)7575
Minimum pension age - the youngest age you can claim your pension55 (50 if you joined the scheme before 6 April 2006 and don't have any service breaks of 5 years or more)5555

Consider how you want to take your benefits

If you have benefits in the 1995 NHS Pension scheme you will receive a combination of annual pension plus a compulsory tax-free lump sum. You will also have the option to give up part of their pension to increase your lump sum.

If you left the scheme before April 2008 and have preserved benefits you will not have the option to commute your pension to increase your lump sum.

If you have benefits in the 2008 and/or the 2015 CARE schemes, you won't automatically receive a lump sum however you can opt to exchange part of your pension to receive a one-off tax-free lump sum on retirement.

For every £1 of pension you give up you'll receive £12 as a tax-free lump sum, The maximum retirement lump sum you will be able to take tax-free is £268,275, unless you have lifetime allowance protection from HMRC.

If you moved to the 2008 section following the ‘Choice’ exercise, you must still take the tax-free lump sum for service up to 31 March 2008. You can, however, also commute part of your 2008 pension to receive an additional lump sum.

To get an estimate of your benefits on retirement we have calculators you can use. You will be able to see your lump sum options and change the date to suit your circumstances.

What about early retirement?

There are two types of early retirement;

  • Compulsory where you’re retired prematurely because of redundancy or in the interests of service efficiency or ;
  • Voluntary where you request to retire earlier than your normal pension age.  

If you’re made redundant or retired in the interests of efficiency, your benefits can be paid without reduction immediately upon leaving. You must have reached minimum pension age (55) and have at least two years’ continuous service. 

If you have more than one job in the NHS you can either take your benefits from the post which you’re retiring prematurely from and remain a member of the scheme in your other posts or you can take your benefits from all your pensionable employments.

If you take your benefits from all your schemes and wish to return to work, you must take a 24 hour break from your employments.

Information about going back to work after retirement 

If you choose voluntary early retirement, your benefits will be reduced to take into account the fact they will potentially be being paid over a longer period of time. 

If you have preserved benefits in the 1995 scheme you must have service after 30 March 2000 to qualify for voluntary early retirement, otherwise the earliest that your pension benefits would be payable is normal pension age.

Partial Retirement

From 1 October 2023, changes to the pension scheme will make it easier for all NHS members to take partial retirement. You’ll be able to take your pension and work flexibly.

From age 55, you can take between 20% to 100% of all your pension benefits, without leaving your current job.

If you’re a member of the 1995 scheme, you can take partial retirement from age 50. From age 50 to 55, you will need to take 100% of your pension benefits.

You don’t need to take a break or change jobs to take partial retirement. You can carry on working, but you need to reduce your pensionable pay by at least 10% for the first 12 months.

GPs, non-GP providers and dental practitioners need to reduce NHS commitments by at least 10%.

You can find out more on our Partial Retirement website page.

Complete your pension application form

You should apply to SPPA three to four months before you want to start taking benefits from the scheme.

If you’re employed, You will need to agree with your employer your date of retirement. Your employer will provide your application form (as they have to complete section two). 

If you aren’t currently employed by the NHS, you can access the retirement application -  NHS:RET on our forms page. 

You’ll need a separate form for each employment and please take time to carefully read the guidance notes. 

You will need to provide proof of identity, this can be your birth certificate or another form of ID such as a driving licence or passport.

Please state the date you would like your NHS Scotland pension to be payable from.

Members who defer payment of their preserved benefits will receive their benefits at their chosen date, index linked to the point of payment.

Benefits will be backdated to NPA unless you have previously informed the SPPA that you wished to defer taking your benefits.

What happens next

Your awarding documents will be emailed to you once your award calculation has been processed and authorised.

Please be aware that this may be immediately prior to your date of retirement or in some cases immediately before the last banking day of the month if your retirement date is early in the month. Below is an outline of the stages your award will follow during the application and calculation process:

  1. When we receive your application we will send you an acknowledgement. This could be by email. 
  2. Your application is then allocated to a Case Officer for calculation. 
  3. Your service and salary details are thoroughly checked which may require us to contact your previous or current employer(s). 
  4. If you have requested “further information” on the “lump sum choice” section of the application form, we will send this information to you prior to your pension being authorised for you to make your choice. 
  5. Once we have completed your calculation, your award is referred for authorisation.
  6.  After your benefits have been authorised, your award documents will be emailed to you.

(Please check spam, junk or deleted items folders in case your mailbox has directed them there instead of your Inbox).

Information about going back to work after retirement 

Application form and guidance

Application Form

You should apply to SPPA three to four months before you want to start taking benefits from the scheme.

If you’re employed, You will need to agree with your employer your date of retirement. Your employer will provide your application form (as they have to complete section two). 

NHS Application Form

Guidance for completing the Application form

Part 1

Section 1

Your personal details, the type of retirement you are applying for and some employment information.

The option for partial retirement is for 2008/2015 members only.

Please use your personal email address.

Section 2

Your bank details, this is the account we will pay your pension and lump sum to. The account must be in your name however this can be a joint account.

Section 3

Details of your marital status, spouse, civil partner/partner. This is in case there are any benefits due in the event of your death. This information will be included in your awarding letter detailing your pension benefits.

You can make and check your nominations on our online service.

Section 4

Lump Sum Choice (Pension Commutation)

If you are retiring with benefits in the 1995 scheme, you will receive an automatic lump sum. You can choose to take an increased lump sum by giving up part of your pension. This is known as making a lump sum choice or commutation of pension.

If you retire with benefits in either the 2008 section or 2015 CARE scheme there is no automatic lump sum at retirement. However, you can choose to give up part of your pension to receive a tax free lump sum.

We can provide a lump sum (commutation) quote before you make your decision, just tick the box marked ‘further information required’ and we will send this to you.

Section 5

Details of any Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVC’s) you have, this can be from any other provider.

Section 6

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Information Details must be entered about any other pensions and lump sums you also have.

Further guidance is available from HMRC

Section 7

Lump Sum Recycling, Provide details of any intended lump sum for recycling. If you are going to use your lump sum to fund another pension.

Further guidance and details of restrictions are available from HMRC

Section 8

Continuing Employment or Re-Employment in the NHS. 

If you intend to return to work or continue to work for the NHS please read Going back to work

Section 9

For Deferred Members Only

If you are deferred, this means you have already stopped contributing to the pension scheme before applying to take your pension. You will need to complete the whole of Part 1 of the application form. We will need proof of identity, this can be your birth certificate, a valid passport or a drivers licence. 

Section 10

The McCloud judgement – 2015 Remedy This tick box explains that your pension will be calculated on its current terms, After October 2023 we will write to you if you need to make a choice about your pension. More information about 2015 Remedy

Section 11

Declaration Once you have completed the form, and checked it over, sign and date.

Member webinars - Ready for retirement

If you are planning on retiring within the next 12 months, we are running online webinars to help you with your retirement journey. You can find out when these are and sign up on our events page.

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