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Applying for ill health pension benefits

If you become too ill to work, you may be able to retire and take your pension benefits. We understand that if you're looking to retire on ill health grounds, how difficult this time can be for you. So we have tried to make it as easy as possible for you to navigate the process on our website. 

To be eligible for ill health retirement, you’ll need to have:

  • been a member for a minimum 2 years
  • not reached normal pension age
  • become too ill to work in your present job

The normal pension age is 60 in the 1995 Section, age 65 in the 2008 Section or State Pension Age (SPA) in the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme (or age 65 if this is later).

The NHS Pension Scheme provides 2 levels of ill health retirement benefits. These are known as Tier 1 and Tier 2 ill health retirement. The tier you receive will depend on the severity of your condition and how likely it is you may be able to work again.

To be eligible for ill health retirement, permanent ill health must be a reason for you leaving work.

Read our member ill health retirement benefits guide (PDF: 1.65MB)

Understanding the different levels of ill health retirement benefits

Qualifying for a Tier 1 ill health pension benefits

You must be permanently incapable of carrying out the duties of your own job.

You’ll be entitled to the early payment of the retirement benefits you have earned to date without any reduction for the early payment.

Qualifying for a Tier 2 ill health pension benefits

You must meet the Tier 1 condition and be permanently incapable of engaging in regular employment of like duration to your NHS job, whether that be either whole time or part time, because of illness or injury.

For the purpose of ill health retirement benefits, ‘permanently incapable’ means until the Scheme’s normal pension age.

The normal pension age is 60 in the 1995 Section, age 65 in the 2008 Section or State Pension Age (SPA) in the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme (or age 65 if this is later).

If you’re eligible for Tier 2 ill health pension benefits and you’re a member of the 1995/2008 Scheme you’ll be entitled to Tier 1 benefits plus 2 thirds of your prospective membership up to reaching the Scheme's normal pension age.

If you’re eligible for Tier 2 ill health pension benefits and you’re a member of the 2015 Scheme, you’ll be entitled to Tier 1 benefits plus one half of your prospective membership to normal pension age.

You can read more about the 2 tiers in our member ill health retirement benefits guide (PDF: 1.65MB)

How to apply

Make sure you read the information available in our member ill health retirement benefits guide before starting your application. This includes a useful summary of the application form that will help you understand the forms you need to complete.

Once you’ve read this, if you’re actively contributing to your pension speak to your employers HR or pension department who will be able to provide an AW33E form for you to complete.

There are 3 sections of the form:

  • your employer will complete part A
  • you’ll need to complete part B
  • your occupational health doctor will complete Part C – where this is not possible the report can be completed by your GP or specialist

You must make sure you have fully completed, signed and dated part B of the form. If your form is not fully completed, it may be returned and this will delay your application.

If you’re a deferred member and no longer actively contributing to your NHS pension, you’ll need to complete an AW240 to apply. You can find more information in our member ill health retirement benefits guide.

Once received, your application will be reviewed by our medical advisors. Our medical advisors employ a team of doctors and advisors qualified in occupational health who provide an independent assessment based on all available medical evidence and make a recommendation to us.

Our medical advisers may ask for more medical evidence. For example, medical advisers may ask for evidence from your GP or specialist if they think the information provided is not sufficient or it may be helpful to their assessment. You should try to provide as much information as possible to avoid delaying your application.

Serious ill health

If you’re terminally ill and your life expectancy is less than 12 months, your benefits will be calculated as Tier 2 ill health pension benefits and you may take your benefits immediately as a lump sum.

Once we receive your application form, we’ll contact you to provide the details of a named member of our team who will support you with your application and arranging the payment of your benefits.

Read our member ill health retirement benefits guide (PDF: 1.65MB) for more information.

How you'll be informed of the outcome

Our medical advisers will contact you and your employer to advise you of the outcome of your application.

If you qualify for ill health pension benefits, you must complete the retirement benefits claim form (AW8) to request payment of these benefits. Your employer will be able to provide you with this form to complete.

If you’re a deferred member, you’ll need to complete and submit an AW8P form.

Once you receive your benefits

Your ill health pension will be increased each April in line with increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

If your circumstances change

It may be possible to move between the tiers after retirement where our medical advisers recommend that your condition may be reassessed within three years. Certain conditions apply.

A reassessment may be recommended if it’s not possible to tell at the outset if your condition may deteriorate so that you are unable to undertake any regular work or if any ongoing treatment will enable you to recover enough to undertake any regular work.

Read our ‘once you receive your benefits’ section or member ill health retirement benefits guide for information on what to do if your circumstances change once you have received your benefits.

Returning to work after ill health retirement

Your benefits may be reduced if you take up further NHS employment after retiring early due to ill health.

You can find more information in our member ill health retirement benefits guide and on our re-employment webpage.

Forms you may need

To apply for ill health pension benefits, you and your employer will need to complete an AW33E application form.

You should speak to your employers HR or pension department who will be able to provide an AW33E form for you to complete.

They can also provide an AW8 application form for your retirement benefits.

Other forms you may need if you’re a deferred member:

Consideration of entitlement for early payment of deferred benefits due to ill health (AW240) (PDF: 400KB)Guidance notes for the registered medical practitioner completing form AW240 Part 2 (PDF: 135KB)Application form for deferred retirement benefits (AW8P) (PDF: 463 KB)

Forms you may need if you’re a deferred pension credit member:

Pension Credit member - Consideration of entitlement for early payment of deferred benefits due to ill health (AW240(PC)) (PDF: 356KB)

Forms you may need if your condition is terminal and life expectancy is less than 12 months:  

Application to commute ill-health retirement benefits (AW341) (PDF: 167KB)Application to commute age retirement benefits on grounds of serious ill-health (AW341a) (PDF: 156KB)