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NHS retirement fellowship: for the not so shy and retiring

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During long, frenetic days and nights working for the NHS, you might romanticise about a leisurely and relaxing retirement. However, for many retired NHS staff, it is not long before the novelty of having a bit of spare time starts to wear off.

NHSRF logo

“A lot of people don’t realise what it feels like to go from working 12-hour days to having nothing in the diary to do,” said national director of the NHS Retirement Fellowship, John Rostill.

Retirement can be challenging for people who have been focussed on a demanding and time-consuming career for all of their working lives. So, what do you do when you no longer have that pressing call on your time?

The NHS Retirement Fellowship - open to anyone from under the expansive NHS umbrella - is the only social, leisure, educational and welfare organisation for retired NHS staff and their partners. Through a range of social activities, interest groups and holidays, the fellowship makes it easy for retired NHS staff to stay in touch and make new friends.

The NHSRF currently has over 17,000 members from a broad range of NHS backgrounds. Consequently, activities and discussions are never short of the dual or multiple perspectives that such invaluable diversity offers.

Rostill said: “We are primarily focused on friendship and fellowship, but these days, all the things we do, such as quizzes, physical activities, walking, rambling, golf, the book club, all meet the requirements laid down in various documents about contributing to longer lives and living longer in good health.”

Members get access to special interest groups ranging from photography to golf, organised group holidays, discounts on a wide range of services from approved suppliers including legal and financial services and access to financial and social support through the Benevolent Fund and the Phone a Friend Scheme.

Additionally, fellowship members provide a source of support for recently retired NHS colleagues. Rostill said: “Some of our members, particularly front line staff such as nurses, made their career their life, working more hours than they were contracted to do. They really do feel a chasm when they retire. Other members had plans in place for when they retired. They didn’t necessarily need another organisation to join initially, but for many of them, their circumstances changed. Friends move away or spouses die. These people then have an organisation available to them with like minded people.”

As well as providing opportunities for former NHS staff to get the best out of their retirement, the increasingly recognised and valued NHSRF is fast becoming a powerful voice on health and age-related issues, championing the values codified in the NHS Constitution from a unique perspective of experience and hindsight. Current NHSRF members across England, Scotland and Wales are:

  • serving as governors, non-executive directors or lay board members
  • supporting patient participation groups at their GP practice
  • taking part in formal consultations, focus groups, patient panels and other forums
  • providing insightful feedback on the planning, development and delivery of their local NHS services
  • working as volunteers, way finders, family and friends test champions, fundraisers and expert patients.

“We need to re-organise for the future,”said Rostill. The fellowship, as well as strengthen current relationships, are always seeking new organisations to work with. They have introduced an award “for the branch who has done most”that will recognise outstanding contributions and are in the process of re-configuring the fellowship constitution.

The next annual NHSRF conference in July, being held this year in Leeds, coincides with the birthday of the NHS. As many as 400 members are expected to attend.


How do I join?

If you are an NHS worker, you can find you local branch and join on the website: NHSRF

(If there isn’t an active branch in your area, the NHSRF will set one up)

Or call free on: 0800 9151455

Contact the central office:

NHS Retirement Fellowship,
Forston Clinic,

Tel: 01305 361317 and speak to Sherry, Kay or Lucy


What do you need to know?

  • The NHSRF is a registered charity.
  • There are currently 170 branches ranging in size from fewer than 20 members to more than 300.
  • Membership is open to retirees and their partners from all NHS settings and disciplines within the Health Service.
  • Annual subscription costs between £8 and £15
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