Career advice

NHS Retirement Fellowship rebrands to boost awareness

The group, which provides social activities and other benefits to retired NHS workers, is looking to expand its membership 

The group, which provides social activities and other benefits to retired NHS workers, is looking to expand its membership 


Photo: iStock

While the NHS is one of the world’s largest employers, its retirement group has only around 9,000 members – but now they are hoping to boost numbers with a fresh image and approach.

‘We’re almost the best kept secret in the NHS,’ says NHS Retirement Fellowship chief executive John Rostill. ‘Although we’ve been going since 1978, a lot of people still don’t know about us. When people find out what we do, they find it an attractive proposition. Now our aim is to get much closer to the NHS, encouraging employer organisations to tell their retirees what we offer.’

A national charity, the fellowship has around 130 branches throughout England, Scotland and Wales, with each setting their own annual fees. Meeting monthly, the groups offer former NHS and social care staff and their partners the chance to take part in various events, such as theatre visits, walking and lunches.

Members are also eligible for discounts on holidays and cruises, access to accommodation in central London and worldwide travel insurance, with a benevolent scheme for those in times of need.


John Rostill.

Supporting staff

‘It’s a social, welfare and educational organisation,’ says Mr Rostill, a former NHS chief executive who retired in 2011. ‘The organisation helps people keep in touch with their former colleagues, avoiding loneliness and isolation, alongside keeping them active, both mentally and physically. But there’s also fellowship and fun.’ 

New branding was launched at the NHS Confederation conference in June. 

‘It went down well, giving us a great opportunity to talk to NHS leaders about how we can work together to support staff who are coming up to retirement,’ says Mr Rostill. ‘We need to do more to support our existing members but also encourage younger retirees to join us too.’

‘Retirement is a huge shock to the system and it’s good to have former colleagues around you who are going through the same experience’

John Rostill, NHS Retirement Fellowship 

While some join immediately on retirement, others may have been retired for several years. 

‘Some people want to do all kinds of other things when they first retire,’ says Mr Rostill. ‘It may be five or ten years later that they begin to miss those they used to work with.

‘Part of our aim is to reach that group too. It’s especially important if someone’s circumstances have changed and they have lost their loved ones or moved.’

Big family

The organisation can also help those who find retirement challenging, Mr Rostill believes. 

‘You might be working 40 or 50 hours a week and then suddenly there’s nothing in your diary,’ he says. 

‘It’s a huge shock to the system and it’s good to have former colleagues around you who are going through the same experience. 

‘The fellowship is unique as everyone shares a similar background, having something in common. The NHS is a big family.’  

Feeling of belonging

Former theatre nurse Sue Williams is the fellowship’s Midland region representative. She helped start the Walsall branch six years ago, where membership costs £30 a year. Events include walking with alpacas, bowling and visiting the National Memorial Arboretum.

Some members have also become involved with another group called Walsall Against Single Use Plastic (WASUP), helping to remove litter from canal sides. Monthly meetings include a speaker, who may be from a charity or health organisation.

‘We do all kinds of things,’ says Ms Williams. ‘For me, it’s about friendship, camaraderie and a feeling of belonging. Some of us have worked together before and there are new friendships too. It’s lovely.’

Meeting up

Branch member and a former community nurse practitioner Linda Aston joined the Walsall branch when she retired in 2017, also bringing along her mum, who was a nurse, and aunt, who was a healthcare support worker.

‘My mum has slight dementia and I was looking for something to do with her,’ she explains. ‘I trained with Sue and she suggested the fellowship. Mum worked with a few of the members and this keeps her brain active.

‘She can talk to them about times I don’t remember. She becomes very animated and you can see it’s really good for her to meet up with people she worked with when she was young.’

‘Even though I have lots of other groups of friends, many are still working. The fellowship is full of like-minded people and we have a great deal in common’ 

Linda Aston, retired nurse

Another advantage is keeping up with the latest developments in the health service. 

‘Last month the speaker was Walsall trust’s new chief executive,’ says Ms Aston. ‘Hearing about his plans helps keep us in the loop, giving us the chance to offer our expertise.’

Like-minded people

Membership has also helped Ms Aston manage her own retirement. ‘Before you retire, your life is all about work. I was determined that I wasn’t going to sit around and do nothing,’ she says.

‘Even though I have lots of other groups of friends, many are still working. The fellowship is full of like-minded people and we have a great deal in common. 

‘While there is a lot of diversity within the NHS, you have a similar outlook. It’s made the first two years of my retirement really enjoyable.’


Lynne Pearce is a health journalist 


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