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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.’