In 2006 the NHS Pensions Agency reviewed and clarified the arrangements that enable General Practitioners to take 24 hour retirement in order to trigger their pension benefits. This opportunity exists for GPs of any contractual status but has particular implications for partners as the underlying requirement of the arrangements is that members must demonstrate a clear intention to retire.

The ’16 hour rule’ has been removed from 1st April 2023.

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Rules for NHS Pension Scheme Members

A GP claiming their 1995 Section, or 2008 Section, or 2015 Scheme, pension benefits in full must satisfy the 24 hour retirement rule which is summarised as follows:

  • A GP Partner must resign from the partnership and not return to the NHS within 24 hours.
  • Where the Practice is a limited company the GP shareholder must cease to be a shareholder and must not return to the NHS within 24 hours. Their shares must be assigned to an eligible person (e.g. another GP) and not be ‘held in trust’.
  • A GP single-hander must terminate their GMS/PMS/APMS contract and not return to the NHS within 24 hours.
  • A salaried GP must terminate their contract of employment and not return to the NHS within 24 hours.
  • A long term surgery or OOHs fee based GP must terminate their contract for services and not return to the NHS within 24 hours.
  • A freelance GP locum must terminate their contracts for services and not return to the NHS within 24 hours.

These rules also apply if a GP has opted out of the NHS Pension Scheme but has remained working for the NHS.

If the GP has concurrent Officer NHS posts elsewhere these must end too for a minimum of 24 hours regardless of if they are pensionable posts or not.

GPs should note that they do need to complete the 24 hour retirement of the Performers list in order to take 24-hour retirement. GP’s will need to log into their personal PCSE online account . Full details can be found at PCSE here . It navigates you to withdrawing from the Performers list, however, it then gives the option for 24 hour retirement. (Page 20 of the PCSE guide for Performers List shows the process).

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Implications for Partnerships and GMS/PMS/APMS

All partners must resign their NHS contract for 24 hours. This has important implications for all partners both in terms of their GMS/PMS/APMS contract and their partnership agreement:

GMS contract holders must resign from their partnership in order to fulfil the requirement to retire from their NHS contract for 24 hours.

Partners of PMS practices must resign as a signatory to the PMS agreement. The partnership in this case is a separate legal entity to the PMS signatories. Undertaking NHS work following 24 hour retirement at the same practice would require either re-signing the PMS agreement or being employed/engaged by the practice (if it is to be the latter, then the GP will have to retire from the partnership noting that a person cannot be simultaneously a Partner within a business and employed by it). Any resignation by a PMS signatory represents a variation to the PMS agreement, and what may then occur is at discretion of the commissioner. The LMC strongly recommends practices informally discuss their proposed plans with the commissioner.

Some partnership agreements may not include any reference to 24-hour retirement, and even if they do there may not be any provision for the terms of the partner’s return to practice. It is therefore recommended that either Partnership Agreements are amended to take into account the opportunity to take 24 hour retirement, or a legal deed is signed prior to the 24 hour retirement setting out the terms and status under which a GP may return to the practice following their retirement. There is no obligation to make such formal agreements, but there is also no automatic right for a partner (or salaried GP) to be readmitted to a practice under their pre-retirement terms.

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PCSE Guide for GPs and non-GP partners planning to retire

PCSE have worked with key stakeholders to produce a new guide (2022) for GPs and non GP Partners who are planning to retire or take 24 hour retirement.

The NHS Pension Scheme Retirement Guide for GPs and non GP partners, found here , explains the six key steps of the process NHS Pension Scheme members whose pension contributions are administered by PCSE need to follow if they wish to claim NHS Pension retirement benefits.

The guide also sets out the timeline for each of the steps in the process and includes some helpful Top Tips. We recommend that GPs and non GP Partners read the guide in full, 12 months before the date they plan to retire.

PCSE recognise that the end to end process to claim NHS Pension retirement benefits is complex and they say are committed to improving the experience for GPs and non GP Partners at this important time.

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Colleagues planning to take 24-hour retirement should:

  • Discuss this option with their financial adviser.
  • Contact the NHS Pensions Agency to confirm eligibility and arrangements – particularly if they hold more than one NHS ‘contract’
  • Discuss their plans with their partners (if applicable) and decide on a mutually agreed approach, particularly in terms of financial arrangements that may apply on a return to a partnership
  • Consider succession planning.
  • If a partner of a PMS practice, discuss the variation to the agreement with the commissioner.
  • Follow the 24-hour retirement rule and maintain records to document this.
  • Plan and start 6 months in advance of the proposed retirement date – See PCSE

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Podcast: Planning for Retirement and Pensions – 1st April 2022

Dr Andy Purbrick speaks with Dr Gareth Bryant about planning for retirement and practical advice around pensions.

N.B. Subsequent to the recording of this podcast, the Lifetime Allowance for pensions has been abolished from 6th April 2023 and the annual allowance increased from £40,000 to £60,000.

Also the limit on working 16 hours per week only for 4 weeks following 24 hour retirement has also been removed from 1st April 2023.

However there is still much valuable information in the podcast!

Listen to the podcast here

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