NHS ill health retirement

Hi everyone I’m looking for some advice…

I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in Jan 2015 and had a year off sick while having chemo, surgery and radiotherapy. I returned to work in Feb 2016. I work as a nurse and although I went back to a less “heavy” department I am working full time. I was lucky to have a good response to first line treatment and am continuing on herceptin and perjeta every 3 weeks.

My issue is I’m struggling… fatigue is terrible and my work is getting more and more stressful and I simply am not coping mentally or physically. I don’t want to reduce my hours as being stage 4 I will need to take ill health retirement sooner or later and if I drop to part time my lump sum will decrease so am trying to stick it out.

I want to retire now but being on first line treatment I don’t know if my oncologist will support me as I’m not currently on chemo.

I know with stage 4 breast cancer my scans can show progression at any time and I want to take the stress out of my life.

Has anyone here retired through ill health in the NHS and have any advice? I dont think my oncologist takes me very seriously sometimes but I was only 32 at diagnosis and am now 36. I’m so exhausted XX

Hi dennymac,

I took time off sick from my NHS nursing post on diagnosis of my secondaries in September 2016, and finished on tier 2 ill health retirement in August 2017. I was on first line treatment (letrizole) at the time. I found my manager, occupational health, human resources and oncologist all to be supportive.

PM me if you want more information.

Best wishes,



Thank you so much. I dunno how I feel about it, I’m too busy carrying on like normal but my body is just burning out x

Hi Dennymac, I can tell you my experience in case it is any help. I made a fairly inconsequential error and thought I should discuss it with my RCN rep. He said ‘you need to think about your fitness to practice’, and that lead to referral to Occupational health. With support of GP also I got ill health retirement on grounds of ongoing fatigue and worry that I might make a serious mistake. I honestly feel nothing but relief I’m not registered any more, but I was only qualified 10 years, working part time, age 57. Hope you can get what is right for you.

Thank you for your reply ? I think my biggest issue is that I’m only 36 and I feel guilty that I’m thinking of retiring already. But I’ve been working full time since returning to work in 2016 and I’m exhausted. Fatigue is getting worse and my body is tired. It’s just making the decision. My 2 older sisters may make me feel guilty about it also as they are in denial and think I’m gonna live another 20 years… It’d be nice but I also wanna be realistic x

Hi dennymac
I have also been wresting with this issue since diagnosis of secondaries last year - I took a year off sick then decided to go back to work part-time (15hrs) as I didn’t feel psychologically ready to finish work - I’m also a nurse age 48 and still love my job. It’s worth speaking to pensions if you havnt already as reducing my hours didn’t really affect my pension that much as I figured I would probably have to finish in the next year if I needed more chemotherapy.
It’s is also worth having the discussion with your oncologist (as difficult as this can be) as mine said he would support me were I wanting to apply for serious ill health retirement as the condition is unpredictable. If you find it to difficult maybe ask your breast nurse to broach the subject for you.
I would also advise speaking to your rep as I have found them a valuable source of information.
You have to go with what feels right for you nursing is a very rewarding but demanding job. I too have been feeling tired after shifts so am now thinking maybe the time has come to go.
The other thing is have you applied for dla as this allowed me to reduce my hours and stay in work longer
Sarah x

Meant to add don’t feel guilty about finishing if that’s what you decide you have spent your career caring and looking after others now it’s time to look after yourself!?

Thanks for your reply… I had full rate PIP due to my diagnosis and was due my renewal in April. My oncologist said I’d responded so well to initial treatment she wouldn’t do a ds1500 to allow me full rate again. I’m currently trying to apply the long way but I’m not holding my breath as I don’t “look sick”. If I do get it it’ll certainly increase my income to make it more comfortable if I do retire x

Just to add macmillan financial advisers may be helpful and my breast care nurse filled all the forms for dla I didn’t even see them x

Hi Dennymac and others,

this is a very timely thread for me, as I too am wrestling with the decision of whether to retire early from my NHS job. I’m an occupational therapist. Diagnosed stage 4 11 years ago and have had two periods of extended leave for chemo and for liver resection surgery. I work 3 days a week but miss one day every three weeks when I have my Kadcyla. My onc has seen me so stressed about my job (just the massive workload) that he has offered to sign whatever I need to take early retirement. I just can’t make the decision. My job is my vocation, I love the actual patient contact, just not all the other poop that goes with it. I’ve defied the odds so far, so what if I retire then my cancer doesn’t progress for ages? On the other hand what if I keep working then get much sicker and wish I’d stopped sooner. It’s an impossible conundrum. There’s also the financial considerations. I’m 55 but haven’t accrued a full pension yet. I don’t want to jump the gun. 

I too feel exhausted by work and life in general and don’t have time/energy to look after myself such as keeping fit, doing enjoyable and wholesome things like gardening and seeing friends and resting when I need to. And it’s the ‘mental load’ of the job on top of everything else I’m juggling. 

My doc suggested ‘deciding’ to retire on grounds of ill health next year, then living with that decision. She suggested trying to live without my salary, but putting it away for a big trip, and planning what I want to do after I retire. Then I might get more of a feel of whether i’m ready to go for it. I thought that was a good plan. 

Another question I have is, do work have to show they’ve made ‘reasonable adjustments’ before occ health with support your retirement? So should I be pushing for lighter duties or shorter hours right now?

i think asking advice from the union is a good plan, I will do that.

thanks again for sharing your experiences and the support this gives


Hi Dennymac
I worked for nhs and retired on ill health you they adjust your pension to your retiring age so In theory you gat more than if you stayed till then I only had a couple of years to go and had a choice of taking all as a lump sum or half and monthly payment I worked it out giving being stage 4 and time I may have left I took full lump sum but I am still here just
That was on the old pension system if you swapped to the new system I am not sure if it works the same but if you are finding it a struggle then may be worth contacting and seeing what pay etc you will get because you should get pip as well so that would help you along side your pension I decided what time I had left was for me and was not giving it to the nhs and looking how it is going I am glad I chose to do that

What a timely thread. After much deliberation I have decided to take my nhs pension. I also have decided to go for the commuted I’ll health optio. I live my job and miss it alot tho feel my life and family are more important and I want to enjoy both in the time I have left while I am relatively healthy. U still meet colleagues often which is very important to me.x

I too have decided now is the time and am taking the leap to apply for serious ill health retirement - I too feel more peace of mind now I have made the decision. I am going to try and apply for the commuted lump sum have a meeting Friday with manager and HR will let u know how it goes x

Thanks Kate and Sarah, it’s  to know others’ experiences of this journey. I haven’t yet spoken to anyone who has regrets about their decision!


Hello. Has everyone who has taken their nhs pension got secondaries? I am exhausted with the pressures of work and wondering what chance there is of getting my pension. I dont have any evidence of secondaries xx

Gina, you’re doing great! When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was very disappointed. Honestly, I began to give up, and because of this, I fell into depression. But then I came across inspirational bible verses, and I thought, why don’t I re-read the Bible again, because I only read it as a child, and then I didn’t understand anything at that time. And while I was reading the Bible, my mind began to clear up a little, and I began to feel better mentally. I also thought it would be better to read the Bible and then meditate. And I started to feel much better, so all our troubles start from our mental state.