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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)

  • Took Early Retirement

    5.36 pm- you are right: it works in Aus. However there are too many people in the BMA who have a vested interest in the status quo for anything to change till younger doctors get involved and get militant. Or, emigrate!

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  • 6:48am
    Totally agree with you!….. as also do many others grass roots GPs.

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  • Is this not the Liverpool Care Pathway for GPs?

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  • I'm a newly qualified GP. I think it's inevitable that I'll have to work to 68 (or longer if the pension age is increased in the meantime) so I plan to go part time when I'm 50. That's my plan to survive.

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  • Una Coales

    John Glasspool, I am an activist and running for BMA Council and I have no vested interest, do not chair a CCG, own a chain of surgeries or sit on the GPC. I say GPs should work to rule not bend over backwards. At some point, the BMA has to say NO to the government. Is this not another form of constructive dismissal to get GPs to retire and hand over their surgeries?

    The latest news I am hearing is of senior GPs retiring and letting the lease expire, leaving the remaining GPs facing no premise to practice from.

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  • If things are this bad why are we not voting to become salaried employees with contracted hours, contracted duties and contracted rights just like the nurses, surgeons, midwives etc !

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  • Una Coales

    @11:14 pm Familiarise yourself with a new legal term called 'unilateral variation'. This means that an employing GP practice, HMO or APMS may decide to change the terms of the salaried GP contract by ending the current mutually agreed one and asking you to sign a new contract with new less favourable terms. This is legal!

    Also doctors did not go to medical school to end up as salaried GPs on £44/h for an APMS while private GPs may charge £70-£130/consultation, private hospital consultants may charge £240/consultation, lawyers may charge £200/h, and barristers may charge £1000/h.

    And furthermore, there is much higher risk and stress when one salaried GP is also responsible for prescription signing of all the nurse practitioners whilst trying to see pts at 10 minute intervals, 5 minute phone consultations and email consultations on the horizon.

    Most would opt to be a portfolio locum GP, retire early, transition to private GP land or emigrate.

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  • I hope you succeed Una - we need someone who has the guts to draw a line in the sand, now.

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  • I agree... Una you are the first potential BMA council member who has spoken spoken with any sense of the reality of our working lives. We need to openly debate the option of leaving the NHS, taking on salaried roles or continuing with the constant change cycles that we have now.

    I sincerely hope you are elected as the BMA is desperately in need of a backbone!

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  • Una Coales | 05 March 2014 6:57am

    I wish you the best of luck as you are the only pro-doctor potential leader we seem to have but a lot of disgruntled grassroot docs like myself have torn up our BMA membership and have no say and I fear that colleagues who are BMA members are going to vote for the same old faces.

    I agree with you re: salaried posts and would add why would anyone run up a student debt of upto £250,000 and do an inherently expensive (defence fees + pension) and risky job (high risk of failing training and being struck off) for what would be the equivalent of a civil service job (net pay after defence fees and pension of 40k a year) with non-secure terms and conditions whilst their employing company (virgin etc) gets the profits. i.e. we take all the risks and get all the downsides but are not entitled to the benefits.

    It is such a shame that a once proud profession has been allowed to sink in the gutter because of a failure of credible leadership by the RCGP and BMA.

    I think the only option is for a move to private practices (single handed to large scale) run by GPs with direct or indirect (insurance) payments. we would still take the risks and work hard for our patients but without the interference of third parties (DOH, NHS England) and can better manage our workload (control private list size and charges)

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