Background: Advising on ill-health retirement is an important role of most practising occupational physicians. In recent years, the eligibility criteria and process for gaining early retirement benefits have changed in many pension schemes in the UK.
Aim: To investigate the variation in rates of retirement due to ill-health in National Health Service (NHS) Trusts and Local Authorities and to update previously published guidance on ill-health retirement with specific reference to pension schemes with eligibility criteria that include permanence of incapacity due to ill-health.
Methods: Rates of retirement were calculated for 222 NHS Trusts and 132 Local Authorities with more than 1500 employees. Literature searches and consensus statements by the authors.
Results: Rates of retirement were widely distributed in the NHS Trusts and Local Authorities. The median rates of retirement were 2.11 (IQR 1.37-2.91)/1000 active members and 4.10 (IQR 3.01-6.10)/1000 employees, respectively (P<0.001). Difficulties in the doctor-patient relationship and in ascertaining the true functional ability of some patients were identified.
Conclusion: There continues to be marked variation in rates of early retirement due to ill-health within and between organizations that warrants further investigation. The general and specific guidance that appears as an appendix in Supplementary data to this paper should help occupational physicians to make equitable recommendations when assessing applications for early retirement benefits and fitness to work.