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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

Year GPs retired before age 60 in each year total GPs who took Voluntary Retirement GPs 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.