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Majority of GPs intend to retire before the age of 60

Exclusive The majority of GPs are intending to retire before the age of 60, Pulse can reveal.

The average GP will retire at the age of 59, according to a Pulse survey of 759 doctors.

GPs told Pulse that the work ‘burden’ has become too great, they were overwhelmed by ‘bureaucracy’ and their ‘standard of living has deteriorated rapidly’. GP leaders said the flux of doctors was a ‘genuine tragedy and waste’.

Some 51% of GPs said they intend to retire before the age of 60, with 38% of GPs planning to retire at 56-60 years. Almost one in seven will retire before the age of 56.

Dr Patricia Rowlands, a GP partner in the Greater Manchester area, said that she will retire this year on the day of her 60th birthday.

Dr Rowlands said: ‘Due to the pressure of work, I cannot do the job in the way that I want to do it or in a way that makes me feel I have done my best for patients.

‘I feel under pressure to cut corners, putting patients at risk and putting myself at risk of making mistakes. In addition to this there are concerns about the future viability of the practice.’

Brighton GP Dr Rob Mockett said he had planned to work until 65, but retired ten years early when he was forced to sell his failing practice.

Dr Mockett said: ‘I had been there since 1989, my partner since 1984. He stopped work altogether. I retired at 55 as I needed to change my work life balance. We were both doing ten sessions a week and that was just not safe.’

He said after a break he returned to work as a locum on three sessions a week.

Dr Mockett said: ‘I used to love being a partner, but it became financially a millstone and with all the other responsibilities a partnership involves, just too much.’

Many GP partners said they had left their roles for locum or portfolio work. And one noted that they were not intending to stay beyond 50, but could be tempted if pay and conditions were improved.

Others said they are not able to retire early due to lack of GP cover at their practice, financial constraints, or difficulties accessing their pensions.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA GP committee executive team workforce lead, said: ‘While 59 may not seem a particularly young retirement age, it is concerning that many GPs would like to retire earlier, citing burnout.

‘GPs are unable to continue working under this intense pressure, seeing dozens of patients a day, dealing with heavy workloads and plugging staff shortages. Others are no longer willing or able to deal with the burden of running a practice when funding for services has not kept up with demand, making the delivery of safe, high-quality patient care difficult.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘It’s a genuine tragedy and waste for the whole service when talented and experienced GPs decide they have no choice but to leave the profession prematurely – they offer so much to our trainees learning from them, as well as to our patients, but only if they are healthy and able to practice safely.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘GPs are a crucial part of the NHS and that’s why we have a number of schemes in place that offer greater flexibility and financial incentives to make later retirement more attractive.

‘We are also investing an extra £2.4 billion a year by 2020 to help practices reduce their workload and free up more time for GPs to spend with patients.’

Earlier this year, Pulse revealed the proportion of GPs drawing their pension before the age of 60 almost doubled from just 33% in 2011/12, to 62% in 2016/17. The average age that a GP drew their pension was at 58.5 years.

At what age do you intend to retire?

Under 50 – 2.37% (18)

50-55 – 10.80% (82)

56-60 – 37.94% (288)

61- 65 – 27.80% (211)

66+ – 9.49% (72)

Don’t know – 11.59% (88)

The survey was launched on 12 April 2018, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 28 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to our readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for a Ninja Coffee Bar as an incentive to complete the survey. A total of 759 GPs responded to this question.