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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

Almost 3,000 GPs retired before the age of 60 over the past five years

Exclusive Almost 3,000 GPs have claimed their pension before the age of 60 since April 2013, Pulse can reveal.

According to statistics obtained from NHS Business Services Authority and analysed by Pulse, the average age of those drawing their pensions for the first time has dropped, from 60.4 years in 2011/12 to 58.5 years in 2016/17.

These new figures strike a further blow to the Government’s target of increasing the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020 – which is already in grave doubt after official figures last year revealed a net loss of 1,200 GPs between September 2016 and September 2017.

Pulse’s figures reveal that there is a trend to more younger GPs claiming their pensions - 721 GPs drew their pension before the age of 60 in 2016/17 compared with 513 in 2011/12.

GP leaders say that early retirees are leaving the profession 'on its knees'.

There have been a number of surveys on GPs retiring earlier, including: a survey by the Medical Defence Union that showed that the proportion of GPs who retire before the age of 60 has increased from one in five (21%) to two in five (39%) since 2011; a BMA survey of 420 GPs in 2014 found that as many as seven out of 10 were considering retiring early because of low morale or ‘unmanageable or unsustainable’ workloads; while a BBC poll of 1,000 GPs in 2015 found 55% would either ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ leave before retirement age.

Last year Health Education England recruited a record number of trainees - 3,157 GP trainees, even though this still fell short of the long-standing target of 3,250 graduates a year.

Despite this, the most recent official NHS Digital figures showed that the overall GP workforce decreased by more than 1,000 between September 2016 and September 2017.

Background to the figures

The figures were obtained by Pulse from NHS Business Authority, which administers pensions.

There are no official statistics on retirement numbers. These figures show how many GPs have begun drawing out their pensions for the first time. This does not directly constitute retirement - a number of GPs who draw their pensions out will be taking '24 hour retirement', where they will be carrying out shifts at the same time as receiving pensions payouts.

However, the BMA’s GP committee pensions lead Dr David Bailey says: ‘If you draw your pension before 60 there’s a significant [financial] hit, so I can’t see why you’d want to do that, rather than wait until you can draw it unreduced, unless you’re actually retiring.’

The figures also show that the total number of GPs drawing their pensions has decreased overall - although the BMA says this is likely because there are fewer older GPs in the workforce overall.

The figures obtained by Pulse show that there is a trend of GPs drawing their pensions out at a younger age. Almost 3,000 GPs have taken their pensions out before the age of 60 since April 2013.

The BMA’s GP committee pensions lead Dr David Bailey said: ‘A significant number are retiring because the indemnity costs involved mean a small amount of part-time work is just no longer a feasible option.’

Dr Anu Rao, medical officer for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland LMC, said the increasing number of GPs ‘fortunate enough’ to draw their pension early leaves ‘a struggling GP workforce on its knees and creates immense pressure on GPs who are currently trying to make general practice work’.

The latest data from NHS Digital on the revised GP retainer scheme – the scheme that incentives GPs who were thinking of leaving to take on extra shifts - shows that as of September 2017, the scheme has only convinced 218 GPs (90 full-time equivalents) to stay on.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA GP committee workforce lead, said the increasing rate of early retirement is ‘concerning for the stability of the GP workforce’ adding that the problem is compounded by ‘too few trainees’ choosing general practice.

An NHS England spokesperson said ‘fewer GPs took voluntary early retirement last year than in 2013/14 or 2014/15’, but added that ‘it is clearly going to be harder to deal with workload by increasing the number of practising GPs if, despite more GP trainees, a higher number of older GPs decide to leave their practices’.

In figures: GP retirement data

Pension yearNumber of GPs claiming their pension before 60 years old% of GPs claiming their pension who are under 60 years oldAverage age

2011/12

513

33%

60.35

2012/13

591

42%

59.32

2013/14

746

50%

59

2014/15

738

51%

58.96

2015/16

677

54%

58.84

2016/17

721

62%

58.52

 Source: NHS Business Authority

Readers' comments (34)

  • I disagrree with Dr Rao - LLR- people leave beacuase it not the job it once was - stress, pressure, patient demands, drive GPs out.
    The 'struggling GPs left behind'- by there own choice- take action or put up!
    I will be off at 50 - no I am not rich- I live with a means that will allow me to do that- you can too!

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  • I blame Revalidation (lose your job if you dont comply ), a vicious and unrelenting GMC(damned if you ,damned if you don't) , CQC , stifling complaints culture , exorbitant indemnity as the factors leading to this , among others .

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  • Took Early Retirement

    I was one of them! YIPPEE!

    And I hear today that the Daily Wail is suddenly worried about GP numbers. Oh what delicious irony.

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  • CENSORSHIP?

    WHATS THAT SONG.. I hope I die before I get old..Talking bout my generation..

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  • CENSORSHIP?

    The WHO
    "My Generation"

    People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    Just because we get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

    This is my generation
    This is my generation, baby

    Why don't you all ffff -fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

    This is my generation
    This is my generation, baby

    Why don't you all ffff-fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    And don't try to d-dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    I'm not trying to cause a b-big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

    This is my generation
    This is my generation, baby

    People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
    Yeah, I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

    This is my generation
    This is my generation, baby

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  • Bye and thanks for all the fish

    I retired at 58 years and 3 months in 2016 with absolutely no regrets.

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  • Remember taking your NHS pension is NOT the same as not working. Some of those taking their NHS pension were in that lucky cohort prior to the changes (Pay in more, work longer, get less out!) so may have exceeded the maximum to pay in before excess tax - I was one of the lucky ones and have taken my lump sum and pension but continue to work, albeit in the knowledge I don’t have to!

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  • already given up hope NI GP

    For many GPS in the over 57 age bracket it doesnt make financial sense to keep contributing to their pension
    They are hit with LTA limits
    Annual allowance limits
    At 57 you will take a 15% hit but this can be outweighed by the Tax penalties for continued contrbutions up to 60
    Sometimes I feel that its better to go early take the hit and possiblty live longer to enjoy it!

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  • King Creosote Third Swan
    I want to die whilst I am alive

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  • How many GPs prepared to work over the age of 60 are working much less than they might have done 5 years ago?

    My estimate is at least 50% less. This also impacts workforce numbers.

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