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  • Writer's pictureJordan White DipPFS

How much NHS Pension will I get after 20 years?

Working out how much NHS Pension you’ll get after 20 years involves looking at several things, including your pension contributions, earnings, and the NHS Pension Scheme rules.

Let's take a closer look at these key elements to give you an estimate of what your NHS Pension could be worth.

What sort of pension is the NHS Pension Scheme?

The NHS Pension Scheme is an example of a defined benefit pension scheme. This type of pension gives you a guaranteed annual income when you retire, for the rest of your life. 

The income you’ll get from the NHS Pension is based on your salary and length of membership in the scheme. As a member of the NHS Pension, you make contributions into the pension from your salary, and you get tax relief for doing so. This makes saving into a pension a very efficient way of saving for retirement.

How do I work out what my NHS Pension will be worth in 20 years?

To work out how much NHS Pension you’ll get after 20 years, you’ll need to look at what information is used to calculate how your retirement benefits build up as your career progresses in the NHS.

Three key things are looked at when calculating how much NHS Pension you’ll get.

Pensionable Service

This looks at how many years you’ve been a member of the NHS Pension Scheme for, so it could be 20 years, for example.

The rate you build up entitlement to pension income

The NHS Pension Scheme uses something called an accrual rate which is the rate you build up pension based on your earnings. The better the rate, the faster you will build up pension benefits at retirement.

Your pensionable earnings

In broad terms, this is your salary. But there may be some forms of NHS earnings that aren’t classed as pensionable, such as certain types of overtime income. So double check with your employer.

As your career is progressing and you continue to be a member of the NHS pension scheme, these three key things are used in the calculation of your NHS Pension income.

But there have been key changes to the NHS Pension scheme over the years, which will ultimately affect how your NHS Pension income will be calculated.

The 1995 section of the NHS Pension Scheme

This section was the first section of the NHS Pension Scheme and was available to NHS employees joining the NHS Pension Scheme before 1st April 2008.

The build-up rate for the 1995 section is 1/80th of our final salary. Our final salary for 1995 pension can be the best 12 months of salary at any point in the three years before retirement.

Let’s imagine our final salary is a whole pizza. And we’ve cut that pizza into 80 slices. For every year of membership in the 1995 section, we’ll get 1 slice of the pizza. The more years we have, the more slices of pizza. This effectively means we’re getting more pension in relation to our final salary as we build up more years of membership in the NHS Pension Scheme.

So for 20 years in the 1995 section, we need to apply the build up rate to our final salary.

The table below looks at what 20 years could be worth going up in £5000 brackets.

Final Salary after 20 years

Estimated NHS Pension



































With 1995 benefits, you’ll also get an extra element of pension - tax-free cash.

It will be given to you automatically, on top of your guaranteed pension for life. But it's just a one-off payment at the start of your retirement.

This tax-free amount is 3 times the value of your main pension income. So, if after 20 years, your NHS Pension is worth £10,000 a year, you would also get £30,000 a tax-free lump sum when you retire.

The 2008 section of the NHS Pension Scheme

If you joined the NHS pension on or after 1st April 2008, you joined the 2008 section of the NHS Pension Scheme.

The way benefits are calculated is similar to the 1995 section however the build up rate is 1/60th. If we compare a 1/60th to a 1/80th, it’s a better build up rate. Think about a pizza cut into 60 slices and another one cut into 80 slices. The 60-slice pizza is giving you more pizza per slice.

Changes to the NHS Pension Scheme in 2015

The NHS Pension Scheme has undergone several reforms in recent years, with the most significant changes implemented in 2015. These changes affected the pension benefits for members, particularly those joining the scheme after April 2015. Depending on when you joined the scheme and your employment circumstances, your pension benefits may differ slightly.

Assuming you are part of the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme, your pension accrual rate is likely to be 1/54th of your pensionable earnings for each year of pensionable service.


The 2015 section of the NHS Pension Scheme is the current section that all NHS employees are building up pension benefits in. These benefits use a different type of calculation looking at your salary as an average across your career in the NHS.

So we bank some pension on an ongoing yearly basis, based on our earnings for a particular year. So if we earned £25,000 in year one of being a member of the NHS Pension Scheme, we’d bank a bit of pension for our earnings in year one. The same thing happens a year later, for our earnings in year two. And so on. So if our salary increases, as we would expect it to do so, we will bank a bit more pension each year compared to the previous year.

Then all these individual yearly pots of pension income get added together to give us a final total that will be our yearly retirement income.

So if we have 20 years of NHS Pension in the 2015 section, we need to think about our earnings in each year. But as a starting point, you could look at the average salary you’ve earned across 20 years, and apply the 1/54th build up rate to it.

Career Average Salary over 20 years

Estimated NHS Pension



































With pension income built up in the 2015 section, we don’t get a tax-free cash lump sum automatically given to us. To get some tax-free cash at the start of our retirement, we have to give up an amount of guaranteed income for life. It’s called applying an exchange rate to the value of our NHS Pension.

This exchange rate is a 12:1 rate. It means for every £12 of tax-free cash we’d like to take at the start of retirement, we need to give up £1 of our standard NHS Pension.

So let’s say our pension after 20 years is worth £10,000 a year when we retire. If we choose to take £12,000 as a tax-free cash lump sum payment, we need to reduce our standard pension by £1,000. This is a commitment to reducing this income forever. So a balance needs to be struck between our need for tax-free cash, and our need for guaranteed income for life.

Things to consider with 20 years of NHS Pension

Do you have NHS Pension benefits in more than one section?

You will very likely have pension built up in more than one section of the NHS Pension Scheme if you have been a member of the NHS Pension Scheme before 2015. Therefore working out what you’ll get when you retire can be more complicated.

For example, you might have 15 years in the 1995 section and 5 years in the 2015 section. So two different calculations will be done.

When do you want to take your NHS Pension?

Think about your retirement age. The standard retirement ages are for the NHS Pension Scheme are:

  • 60 years old for 1995 pension

  • 65 years old for 2008 pension

  • State Pension age for 2015 pension

You don’t have to take all of your pension at the same time if you have pension income in more than one section of the NHS Pension.

We can even choose to take early retirement, as early as age 55. To do this, we will have to take a reduction of around 5% of our pension income for every year we choose to retire early.


By considering these factors, you can estimate the potential value of your NHS pension after 20 years of service. However, it's important to note that this is just an estimate, and your actual pension benefits may vary depending on your individual circumstances and any future changes to the scheme.

To get a more accurate projection of your pension benefits, you may want to use the NHS Pension Scheme's online calculator or speak with a financial adviser who specialises in retirement planning and pension schemes. They can provide personalised advice based on your specific situation and help you make informed decisions about your pension planning.


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