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Ill health pushes 700 GPs into early retirement, health minister reveals

Nearly 700 GPs have sought early retirement due to ill health since since 2010, the Government has said.

Responding to a parliamentary question from the Labour Party, health minister Steve Brine revealed that 5,437 GPs retired before the age of 60 between 2009/10 and 2016/17.

Of these, 4,753 took voluntary retirement, while 684 retired due to ill health.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, who posed the written question, used the Pulse Live conference last week to announce Labour plans to boost GP funding, should the party come into power.

He announced a £500m infrastructure fund dedicated to primary care as part of a proposal to spend £5bn a year on the NHS, via a tax rise for the top 5% of earners.

He pledged that general practice would see a rising proportion of the NHS budget - a promise the current Government has yet to achieve.

He acknowledged the 'intolerable pressures' that GPs are under, adding that a Labour government would ‘honour the commitment’ to recruit an extra 5,000 GPs - which he pointed out the Government is 'far from being on track' to achieve - looking at how it 'can make general practice more attractive to medical students'.

In a Pulse survey of more than 800 GPs last year, almost half said their ability to care for patients had been affected by the stress of general practice.

It further found one in 10 GPs had taken time off work in the past 12 months because of stress or burnout, while a further 22% feared they would have to do so within the next year.

Data in full

YearGPs retired before age 60 in each year totalGPs who took Voluntary RetirementGPs who took Ill Health Retirement
2009/10 398 324 74
2010/11 525 443 82
2011/12 599 513 86
2012/13 685 591 94
2013/14 835 746 89
2014/15 844 738 106
2015/16 767 677 90
2016/17 784 721 63*
 Total 5,437 4,753 684

*Some ill health pension applications are still under consideration by the NHSBSA.

Source: www.parliament.uk

Readers' comments (5)

  • Cobblers

    Yup I retired sick a few years ago.

    Sick of GP, the NHS, the SoS for Health, the media, the GMC, I could go on.

    It hasn't improved and I'm glad I'm out.

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  • Around 85 GPs a year retiring on ill health grounds - not a high proportion of the workforce, would be useful to have some comparison figures with other jobs.

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  • Dylan at 12.18 makes a good point - and his maths is right - only 85 docs a year retiring (on average) due to medical grounds seems a tiny number. We all know of colleagues who have gone early with serious illnesses.

    The latest GP headcount (2016) in England is 41,985(I assume that these ill health retirement figures are for England). So the annual ill-health retirement rate is only one in 494!! (0.202%).

    Many of the other retirements under 60 ("non-ill-health") will be docs who have had enough as full-time partners, take their pensions and then go on to far less stressful roles.

    Recently the fall in the life-time-allowance will have led to significant numbers of experienced docs stopping for a month to get their pension and then going on working. They can be very confident that their younger partners will have them back - as there is absolutely no alternative!

    As Dylan remarks - what are the ill-health retirement rates for other 'less than super' public employment roles such as nurse, teacher and social worker? It may even be that GPs are a relatively resilient group.

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  • On the other hand - these figures will not include the enormous number of much younger GPs who are just 'giving up and doing something else' - often in their late thirties. These doctors lost to primary care will not show in the 'retirement figures for at least a couple of decades.

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  • You are more prone to retire sick if you are a BME - NHSE loses your sick certification paperwork for locum reimbursement 3 times after acknowledging receipt and you finally get it in 12 months scaring you from seeking further medical help as it could spell doom for the Surgery and your family if you are single handed. These guys should be taken down for manslaughter in a few cases. Kent NHSE is a glaring example of incompetence and shady working.

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