Frozen NHS Pension

In this article, you’ll learn what happens to old National Health Service (NHS) pensions that are no longer being paid into, and what your options are if you have one.

Need a little help with an old NHS pension? Get in touch. The advisors we work with can help you to find out what your options are.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:

Note: The words ‘dormant’, ‘deferred’ and ‘frozen’ are used interchangeably when referring to pensions like this – though the terms ‘dormant’ or ‘deferred’ are actually more accurate than frozen pensions.

We’ll use all three terms in this article.

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Can an NHS pension be frozen?

Yes. The NHS refers to frozen pensions as deferred pensions – using the term ‘deferred members’ to describe people who are no longer employed by the NHS but have built up an NHS pension while they worked there.

Deferred pensions continue to increase in line with the cost of living (they’re linked to the Consumer Prices Index) all the way up to the date of your retirement from the scheme. You can claim your deferred benefits once you’ve reached your normal retirement age for the section or scheme you’re in.

What are my options?

There are a few things that you can do, depending on how old you are.

Take your benefits at the age of retirement

Which will depend upon what section/scheme that you were in.

  • If you’re in the 1995 section: Your retirement age is 60.
  • If you’re in the 2008 section: Your retirement age is 65.
  • If you’re in the 2015 section: Your retirement age is equal to your state pension age.

Rejoin the NHS and start adding more to your retirement income

Though, as mentioned above, the deferred part of your pension money would be calculated separately at retirement.

Claim your benefits early, but only if you can get an actuarial reduction

NHS pension scheme members are entitled to claim their benefits on Actuarially
Reduced Early Retirement (ARER) grounds from the minimum pensionable age up to their Normal Pension Age (NPA).

Employer’s approval is not required, but any notice period must be agreed in line with their employment contract.

Can I unlock a frozen NHS pension?

There is no way to access your deferred benefits until you retire.

The exception is if you’re eligible to take them early, under actuarially reduced ‘early payment of deferred benefits’ (EPPB), or if you’re eligible for early retirement on the grounds of ill health.


In this section, you’ll find the answers to the questions we most often hear about frozen NHS pensions.

What happens if I take a pause (for example a sabbatical or a move to the private sector) and then go back to being employed by the NHS?

It’d depend on how long you took a pause for, and the NHS pension scheme that you’re in.

Deferment ‘kicks in’ 12 months after you leave in the 1995 and 2008 schemes, and 5 years after in the 2015 scheme.

So, if you were to return after your pension was deferred, you’d start a new active pension, and your previous deferred pension would be frozen until your retirement.

If you were to return before the period of deferment, you’d simply pay into the same pension you had before you left.

What if I change role, but remain employed by the NHS?

Your pension would be unaffected.

What happens if I retire with multiple deferred pensions?

When calculating your final retirement income, the NHS pension scheme will compare the following two calculations:

  • The total separate pay for each period deferment (plus CPI), added together
  • Your total benefits, based on your pay at retirement

Whichever works out to be the highest figure is the one that you’ll get.

How do I claim my deferred benefits?

You need to download the retirement application form ‘AW8P’ from the NHS Pensions website.

Where can I find more information?

As the administrator of NHS Pensions, The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA)’s website has more info. They also have a ‘final salary linking guide’ which looks specifically at breaks in pay, though it is somewhat technical.

If you’d like a little guidance, you can get help through the NHS Pensions Member Hub – alternatively, you could speak to one of the experts that we work with, who can help talk you through your options.

Talk to an expert today

If you have questions about your NHS pension and want to speak to an expert for the right advice, call us today on 0808 189 0463 or make an enquiry.

Then sit back and let us do all the hard work in finding the advisor with the right expertise for your circumstances. We don’t charge a fee and there’s absolutely no obligation or marks on your credit rating.

We can arrange a free pension review for you today

70% of customers who have a pension review find a better deal

We can arrange a free pension review for you today

70% of customers who have a pension review find a better deal

Tony has worked in a vastly diverse array of areas in the pensions industry for over 2 decades. Tony regularly writes for trade press, usually on topical and pensions pieces as well as acting as a judge at prestigious national events. Tony is also a highly qualified Independent Financial Adviser in his own right. His mantra has always been "Hope for the best, but PLAN for the worst", and believes that the biggest impact that an adviser can have on a client's life journey is to take them on a journey from generally having little or no real idea of what their retirement will look like, to giving them the understanding of what their retirement looks like now, then helping them navigate a path to what they WANT their retirement to be.

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