Transferring your benefits out of the NHS scheme
Warning: Beware of ‘pension liberation’ scams
Pension transfers are frequently targeted by criminal scams. Please read the information provided by the Pensions Regulator before you make a final decision on your pension transfer.
What is a pension transfer?
If you’re leaving employment with the NHS in Scotland (or you’re opting out of the NHS pension scheme) you can transfer the value of your accumulated pension benefits to another approved pension scheme.
If you’re moving to another NHS post in England & Wales or Northern Ireland, you can ask to transfer your existing benefits into their scheme but note that the transfer won’t take place automatically - you’ll have to make a formal application.
You can also transfer out to a registered occupational pension scheme with defined benefits, but you can’t move to a defined contribution scheme offering flexible benefits (unless you have between three months and two years’ membership in the scheme, and currently don’t qualify for a pension in retirement).
Transfers to Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes
Recent changes in legislation have made transfers to overseas schemes rare – and, often, subject to a tax charge. To check if you’re able to transfer to a Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme, send the details of your new scheme to our transfers team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information on overseas transfers is available here.
Transfer time limits
If you have more than two years’ service, you can apply for a transfer at any time – although it must be completed before your normal pension age. If you have less than two years’ service, you must join your new scheme within 12 months of leaving the NHS and have applied for your transfer within 12 months of joining your new scheme.
1995 section members with a normal pension age of 60 must complete transfers before reaching 60.
2008 section members with a normal pension age of 65, must complete transfers before reaching 65.
2015 section members, and members who have transitioned into the 2015 scheme, must apply before their state pension age.
Cancelling a transfer
Once a payment has been sent to your new scheme, transfers cannot be reversed. Please contact SPPA immediately if you change your mind about a transfer.
Transferring out FAQs
How do I make a transfer application?
Before submitting a transfer request, ask your new provider about their transfer process and check that they will accept a transfer from the NHS pension scheme. We normally receive transfer requests directly from the new provider but we can accept a request directly from you if your new provider won’t manage the process on your behalf.
When we receive the application, we’ll check that the receiving scheme is eligible and provide a transfer value as quickly as we can.
What happens once I’ve applied for a transfer?
We’ll start by calculating the transfer value of your benefits. This will be guaranteed for a period of three months and we’ll send the valuation to your new pension provider along with the necessary discharge forms.
Your new provider should then tell you what benefits your transfer value will buy in their scheme. At this stage, you should compare the benefits offered by your new provider with those preserved in the NHS scheme. You should also compare the normal retirement age in the NHS scheme with your new provider’s normal retirement age as, sometimes, it can change as a result of the transfer.
If you decide to proceed with the transfer, sign the discharge forms and send them to your new scheme so they can request the transfer on your behalf.
How do you calculate the transfer payment?
We use a number of factors supplied by the Government Actuary’s Department to work out the cash equivalent value of your pension benefits. The cash value is then used to buy benefits in your new scheme.
Are transfer values guaranteed?
Yes, your transfer value will be guaranteed for three months from the date of calculation. If your new scheme asks for a payment within the three month guarantee period, we’ll pay the guaranteed amount. If the transfer request is received after the guaranteed period, we’ll recalculate the transfer value and pay that amount to your new scheme.
Do you charge for a transfer valuation?
We provide one transfer valuation a year free of charge. However, we do charge for additional valuations. See our current list of charges here.
Are the NHS Scotland Pension Schemes members of the ‘Public Sector Transfer Club Scheme’ arrangements?
Yes. Further information about the club schemes is available here.
Are you able to advise me if a transfer is my best option?
No. SPPA doesn’t provide financial advice to scheme members. You may wish to take independent financial advice before transferring your benefits to a new scheme.
Would a transfer affect my normal retirement age?
It’s very likely that your normal retirement age in your new scheme will increase once you’ve transferred. Your normal retirement age in the NHS scheme is shown on the transfer options forms. Make sure you check it against the normal retirement age in your new provider’s scheme.
Contact the SPPA Transfers Team
Scottish Public Pensions Agency
7 Tweedside Park
Telephone: 01896 893 000 and ask for Transfers when prompted.
Fax: 01896 893 214
More information about the Pension Schemes Bill can be found here.