The NHS Death in Service benefits’ facelift

Have you sorted out who would benefit from your death?

Bringing up the subject of your death and who will benefit financially when you are gone, isn’t a conversation you are likely to feel comfortable with!  It’s a subject you should not ignore, especially in light of the recent changes to the NHS Pension Scheme.

Doctors and Dentists: Do you know who will benefit if you die?
Since the Scheme was born in 1948, the world we live in has changed dramatically. For example:

  • In 1948 a quarter of British homes had no electricity
  • Free State education was only provided up to the age of 15
  • The British workforce was almost entirely made up of men*

The NHS Death in Service benefits naturally reflected the society of its era. At this time, your husband or wife were the ONLY people who qualified for any financial support if you died.

In the past, the Death in Service benefits failed to keep up with evolution as our families changed over the years, leaving a gaping ravine between who we all thought of as our family, and who the pension scheme might think of as ‘dependent family’ in the event of our death.

Welcome to the 21st century NHS. The NHS Death in Service benefits have finally changed with refreshing results! Values and outlooks have progressed and become more inclusive relating to our ever-changing modern society.

NHS Pension Death in Service benefits today

Irrespective of which scheme you are a member of – the 1995, 2008 or 2015 scheme – to benefit from Death in Service you no longer need to be fitting the image of ‘the other half’ befitting of the 1940s! You could be:

  1. Widowers
  2. Civil Partners and Married Same Sex Partners
  3. Qualifying Partners: providing a PN1 has been completed. Both partners have to complete the form and it has to be submitted prior to death.

To be considered a qualifying partner, all the following conditions must be satisfied at the date of your death and have existed for a continuous period of at least 2 years:

  • Neither person has a legal partner i.e. a spouse or registered civil partner
  • They are not related to each other in a way which would prevent marriage or registered civil partnership
  • They are living together in an exclusive relationship as if they were husband and wife or civil partners
  • One partner is financially dependent on the other or they are financially interdependent on each other

Essentially ‘qualifying partners’ in the 21st century get the same benefits as other legal partners. However, the qualifying partner does need to be nominated.

So, if you haven’t already completed the NHS Pension Scheme’s nomination of beneficiaries form, I’d do it ASAP. Do it today. Fill in the PN1. Just do it.

So who qualifies as a dependent?

The same criteria for Qualifying Partners is used for pensions being paid out to Widows and Widowers, and Civil Partners.

Dependent children

In addition, dependent ‘children’ can receive a pension until the age of 23 should they meet the criteria. A maximum of 2 children at any time can be supported in this way. Also, younger children will be supported as older ones cease to qualify.

As modern families have evolved, the definition has been updated to include a number of other possible child dependents. This includes not only your own biological children, but also children of a civil partner, adopted children and even a niece or nephew.

See the NHS Pension Scheme’s Survivors Guide for full details. At least 2 years membership must have been completed for a dependent’s pension to be payable.

Increasing your pension and buying life protection

Other recently implemented changes mean you can now buy Additional Pension to increase your NHS pension. You can also opt in or out of buying additional death or ill health pension benefits.

Buyer beware: There are differences across the 3 schemes

Make sure you know which scheme you are in: the 1995 scheme, 2008 scheme or 2015 scheme. There are differences across each regarding Death in Service and Ill Health benefits, particularly how these benefits are paid out.

Broadly speaking, Death in Service is twice your pensionable NHS pay, providing you are in ‘active pensionable employment’.

However, which scheme you are in (1995, 2008 or 2015) and your occupation (hospital doctor, GP, DGP, etc.) determines how this ‘pay’ figure is calculated. See your scheme booklet for full details.

Don’t forget, if you are a locum at the time of death, things are not so straight forward. GP locums: Will you get your death in service benefit? >

So what actually happens to my NHS Pension benefits when I die?

  • If you are working in pensionable NHS employment at the time of your death, your last employer will arrange completion of the appropriate application forms.
  • It is important that someone notifies the Scheme Administrator as soon as possible of your death.
  • The Death in Service lump sum needs to be paid within 2 years of the date the Scheme Administrator was first notified of your death. If not, a tax charge of up to 45% will be deducted from the lump sum payment.

NHS Pension Death in Service benefits: Are they worth it?

These Death in Service benefits remain as valuable as ever. At a time when some medics question the value of their NHS Pension membership, it’s easy to overlook the basics and forget how invaluable the financial support would be for your family if you passed away.

Ensure your loved ones are taken care of by taking them into account when reviewing your protection arrangements. Make sure your family is nominated correctly and don’t forget you can update your nominations easily if your life changes.

It is important financial matters are organised and steps are put in place to reduce the stress of death within the family unit. Getting your head around the NHS Pension Scheme and its benefits is not easy. Your Legal & Medical financial adviser can help make it less painful.

Do you know who will get your NHS Pension benefits when you die? Let us know by adding a comment below.

* Britain since the 1930s 

14 thoughts on “The NHS Death in Service benefits’ facelift

  1. Rita

    Hi my mum worked with the nhs when she past age 73 is she still intiteld to a pay out she was not in the pension

    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi Rita,

      If your mother was not in the pension scheme then no pension or lump-sum retirement benefit would be payable. The only payout she may have been entitled to was a standard redundancy payment if she had been made redundant.

      Best wishes,

  2. Andrew


    I’m trying to work out if I need additional cover or not. Been working for the NHS since 2014 and now earn 37k . If I passed away what monthly pension would this give my husband/child?


    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there,

      Your spouse would receive a lump sum of twice your pensionable income as a lump sum and a pension. The pension would be half of what you are/were entitled to. For as long as your child is financially dependent (up until the age of 23) they would receive a quarter of the pension that you are/were entitled to.

      I hope this helps,

      Best wishes, Owen

  3. Owen Beswick

    Hi there,

    He would be entitled to a lump sum in the event that you are still working. In the event that the pension had not been in payment for 5 years, there may be a residual lump sum payable. Your son would only be entitled to an ongoing pension in the event that he was incapable of supporting himself financially as a result of a medical condition.

    I hope this help,

    Kind regards, Owen

  4. Steve Fildes

    I am a male and my female partner has a NHS Pension. She is still married to another person. Can she leave her pension to me as she does not want it to go to her estranged husband?

    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there

      Unfortunately, the answer is “no” – she cannot leave the pension to you. Some rules need to be conformed to for a successful nomination of a beneficiary.

      For a nominated qualifying partner nomination to succeed all the following conditions must be satisfied at the date of the member’s death and have existed for a continuous period of at least two years:

      1) Neither person has a legal partner i.e. a spouse or registered civil partner.
      2) They are not related to each other in a way which would prevent marriage or registered a civil partnership.
      3) They are living together in an exclusive relationship as if they were husband and wife or civil partners.
      4) One partner is financially dependent on the other or they are financially interdependent on each other.

      I hope this helps.

      Best wishes, Owen

  5. Nadia

    I would like to know why the age of the dependent is limited to age 23 years ?
    Does that mean that after this age they are not entitled to the death in service lump sum and who else can be nominated if you do not have a partner ?
    The NHS pension benefits should be updated to reflect the growing number of staff who are single parents !

    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there,

      The dependents pension is limited to age 23 for children, although there are a few exceptions to the rule. We are not in a position to comment as to why they choose age 23. The death in service lump sum is something different and is payable whilst in service and you can nominate a beneficiary.

      In defense of the NHS pension, they have moved with the times, although the speed at with which it moves is not as quick as many would like. You can nominate spousal ill-health pension if you are not married and fit their criteria.

      I hope this helps

      Best wishes,

  6. Vikki Grimes

    My husband has just passed away at the age of 46. He has been paying into the NHS pension scheme since 2008. His manager has said I will not receive death in service lump sum unless he was contributing to a separate scheme over and above his NHS pension. His TRS shows a suggested sum that would be paid to me. All the information I have read suggests that as long he was paying into the pension scheme I will receive a lump sum. Please can you advise me

    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi Vikki,

      May I firstly pass on my condolences, I am very sorry for your loss. You may find the survivor’s booklet that the NHS provides helpful – NHS Pension Survivors Guide.

      I have no idea why your husband’s manager would suggest that no lump sum is payable unless your husband had been in ill-health retired for some time previous to his death. I assume that you know you are entitled to a Spouse Pension and in the event that you have children, they are entitled to a dependents pension (max 2 children covered.)

      If you feel that you need further help do not hesitate to contact us

      Best wishes, Owen

  7. Maggie Owen

    Hi, I worked in the NHS for 32years and get a good pension. I am now retired. I am divorced, and would like to know what happens to my NHS pension when I die, I don’t have a partner but have grown up family.
    Thank you for any help you can give me.

    1. Owen Beswick

      Hi there

      If you enter into a long-term relationship/re-marry then your new spouse would be eligible to receive up to half of your pension. I am assuming that your sons/daughters are not financially dependent and therefore they would not be entitled to a dependent’s pension.

      If your situation remains as it is then when you die, the pension “dies” with you.

      Best wishes, Owen

  8. Maggie Owen

    Many thanks for your reply. People I had worked with told me various things, thank you for giving me an acceptable answer.

    Maggie Owen


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