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Independents' Day

GPs face long wait until retirement as review omits them from age-related 'risk' list

GPs face working late into their sixties before qualifying for an NHS pension after a major review excluded the profession from a list of ‘at risk’ jobs that were difficult to do later on in life.

Preliminary findings from the Working Longer Review group - which includes representation from the BMA - said that it had identified dentists, surgeons and midwives as groups who would struggle to carry on in their jobs if retirement ages were raised over 60 years. But not GPs.

The GPC criticised the omission of GPs from the list of ‘at risk’ professions, saying there is a lack of understanding of how strenuous working as a GP is.

The Working Longer Review group has been considering ‘how NHS staff will continue to provide excellent and compassionate care when
they are working longer’ and was a last-ditch attempt to block chancellor George Osborne’s plans to increase the retirement age to 65 years by 2015, and subsequently 68 years by 2046.

Last year, the BMA said it hoped the Working Longer Review - a group of trade unions, NHS Employers and the Department of Health - would decide that those with physically or mentally demanding jobs could have their retirement age capped earlier.

But a review of evidence from University of Bath researchers - published last year - that found NHS workers were capable of working longer when reporting to the Government last year.

This new evidence is a further blow, omitted GPs from the list of ‘at risk’ professions. The list included nurses, midwives, porters, paramedics, catering and estates staff, surgeons, mental health practitioners, radiographers, community health workers, physiotherapists and dentists.

According to the review group’s evidence call from NHS staff, there was ‘a very high level of concern about their physical and psychological capability to undertake their NHS duties for a longer period of time’.

The report stated: ‘The fear of burnout and the cumulative impact of very physically demanding jobs are cited by most as the reason why they think working longer will pose a problem to safe and effective service delivery and excellent patient care in the future… The following areas of risk were identified…’

Despite a ‘day of action’ in June 2012, the BMA has all but conceded that GPs will have to continue paying up to 14.5% pensions contributions after the Pensions Act is enshrined in law.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said he was disappointed in the findings. He said: ‘Yes we had hoped to be treated in line with other doctors, particularly those who are in stressful situations. Large numbers of GPs are looking to retire and we struggle to retain doctors. Pensions are one of the issues that are driving GPs away and that needs to be recognised by Government or they will face a crisis of recruitment and retention. They need to actually deal with that urgently.’

‘GPs do all of those jobs, essentially, so I think that the fact that GPs aren’t on that list is quite odd. There is a lack of understanding of what is involved in general practice and the pressures on GPs, but it is all too obvious when you look at the numbers who are looking at retiring as soon as possible.’

‘You are almost running a marathon in general practice every day just to keep on top of the workload, do ten-minute consultations, repeatedly dealing with emergency situations. You need to be mentally and physically fit to cope with that.’


Readers' comments (51)

  • From BBC news re a&e abuse:

    Healthwatch England chairwoman Anna Bradley said: "A&E has become NHS Express. The problem is it was never designed to be a catch-all service and nor should it be allowed to become one.

    "But blaming people for going to the 'wrong place' when we need care and support is the wrong way of looking at the problem.

    "I'm not absolving us of our responsibility not to clog A&E whenever we get the sniffles, but until the health and care sector offers a more consumer-friendly experience, things are unlikely to improve."

    Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, agreed.

    She said: "The NHS drastically needs to improve the out-of-hours care to ensure patients in acute emergencies are able to receive the high quality of care that A&E departments provide.

    "Until then people will turn up at A&E in desperation with everyday medical problems. "

    .... These people have no clue! They are getting a free service... If they want consumer friendly maybe they'd like to fund that!!!!! I can't take any more of this crap. I'm looking at a career change. I'm burning out

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  • I was duty doctor yesterday and there were 91 'Emergency' calls from patients yesterday that I alone fielded, on top of some routine appointments, with 30 more shared amongst my colleagues.

    I spent until after 8pm, when surgery closes at 6.30pm dealing with all the calls to ensure no-one was left uncared for. This was non stop 12hrs of care, no time for lunch, driving between visits was my only break from patient contact.

    I am in my 30's but can not imagine I could continue with this workload in my 50's, let alone 60's.

    Due to holiday cover, I have the joy of being on call again today.

    I planned for added years to my pension so I could retire at 55, now with 'Enforced Changes' (Thanks BMA) I reckon I like many others may never live to see a pension - 'Win Win' for the DOH, and extra taxes for my entire career go to paying off the national debt.

    Why continue??????

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  • Yep, it's tough.
    I've been full time all my GP career and approaching 50 soon.
    I've had 2 meetings with my financial adviser and will get out of the pension scheme at 52 yrs 9 months which is when I switch to the new scheme. After this I would get the arse taxed off me but until that point and with 8 added years (4 years as a locum and abroad mixed in) I have managed to preserve a decent pension deferred to 60.
    Then I will get a massive monthly saving to try and get another lump sum in another scheme if I ever get to 60.
    But how and in what form will we be working until then?
    God only knows.

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  • 'I am in my 30's'
    Get out, do something else.
    I am really pissed with my self that I didn't get out in 2004 but the new contract gave us some hope that the GPs would be treated as professionals and our income recovered to a level where it was appropriate for the 50 hours + most of us were doing BUT the threats of QoF and the contract are now bearing fruit and the 'gains,' which were, actually levelling out, recognising the poor position of the profession are now all pruned back through the lack of investment. I have warned of too many patients, too few Drs too many hours leading to quality GPs burning out - it's real and >65yrs doing the same LMFAO- coffins or GMC and no pension claimed, taxman happy!

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  • To the editor -

    Will you be asking the BMA what they will do about this? I'd be very interested on their explanation

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  • Took Early Retirement

    The BMA is busy keeping its powder dry

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  • but seriously - is anyone surprised?

    can we now start debating about alternative models e.g. like our dentist colleagues before the profession is totally destroyed?

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  • My GP father collapsed and died of an MI on his visit round many years ago. Due to inability to replace retiring partner two years ago, I have had about three weeks off per year for the last two years. I routinely work 12 hour days and do all my own terminal care. I am not yet 50. I cannot envisage still being capable of doing the job well into my sixties. How come when GPs work far more hours than the EWTD do we class as having less stressful jobs than those within hospital who do abide by the EWTD rules?

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  • Whilst the Working Longer Review may have drawn these conclusions, I suspect for the majority of cases human physiology will simply kick in and large numbers of GPs will end up on some form of incapacity benefit, off with long term sickness or suspended due to medico-legal claims. It is not possible for most people to work full time as a GP until 68 and stay alive.

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  • agree with Anonymous | 04 March 2014 6:48am

    but i don't understand why we can't debate the private GP model?

    here is my 2 cents ...

    it should be possible to have a model of care where there can be a single private GP or a larger private practice with several GPs i.e. scalable.

    Payment can be direct or indirect via insurance schemes and could be for time or activity.

    Ok - we will have to opt for private pensions but if we set ourselves up as limited companies and took advantage of pension tax breaks we may get a better deal?

    The NHS could still exist but with the primary care element (the bit that does 90% of the consultations) private BUT in the hands of doctors i.e. front-line staff who provide the service not big companies?

    any other ideas???

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