Advice line: check if you’d get full NHS pension benefits at 55

Penny Bromley advises on how to check if you’d get full NHS pension benefits at 55

Some members of the NHS pension scheme who want to retire at 55 are finding that they may not be eligible for full benefits under Special Class Status (SCS).  

SCS is a historic benefit that allows physiotherapists and other groups to retire at 55, with full pension benefits. It ended on 6 March 1995 but if, at that time, you were working as a physiotherapist, paying an NHS pension and haven’t subsequently taken a break of five or more years consecutively from the NHS scheme, you may still qualify. 

However, some people who meet the qualifying conditions may be unable to access SCS because it is attached to jobs, not people. 

The post you hold when you wish to retire requires you to be an HCPC-registered physiotherapist, under NHS Pensions criteria. This needs to be in your job description and person specification as an essential qualification of the role. NHS Pensions recognises that if you have moved into a management role that is not a barrier to eligibility.  

NHS Pensions has also determined that you must have worked in a role that attracts SCS for your last five years of pensionable employment, although breaks in service during this period, or working reduced hours in a qualifying role, will not exclude you. 

Members with SCS who change jobs should check with their prospective employers that their new role retains SCS. Also, keep job descriptions and person specifications from past roles so you can demonstrate that you meet the NHS Pensions criteria. If you don’t have these, check with employers to find out if your previous roles attracted SCS. 

Check with NHS Pensions about your rights. Your employer and NHS Pensions are the first port of call if you have any problems. If neither can help, we can help you challenge a decision if there is a valid problem – although the CSP cannot provide individual pension advice.       

  • Penny Bromley is CSP senior negotiating officer

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