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Over half of GPs plan to stop practising before retirement age

EXCLUSIVE More than 50% of GPs are planning to stop practising before they hit retirement age, according to a new survey.

A majority (53%) of the 940 GPs surveyed by Pulse said they will retire early due to reasons including issues with their pension, increasing workload and burnout.

GPs also told Pulse that they would ‘like to’ retire before hitting their retirement age but feared they might not be able to afford to do so. 

This come after a Pulse survey last year found that the average GP planned to retire at the age of 59, with many respondents saying the work ‘burden’ had become too great, they were overwhelmed by ‘bureaucracy’ and their ‘standard of living had deteriorated rapidly’

In Pulse’s latest survey, many respondents who said they intend to stop practising before retirement highlighted the ‘unsustainable’ workload, the lack of support and pension penalties.

The BMA said the findings were not surprising and reflect the ‘challenging circumstances’ under which experienced GPs work hard to provide the best care to their patients.

When asked ‘do you intend to stop practising as a GP before retirement age?’ one respondent said: ‘Yes. The reasons are: 1) Increased dissatisfaction with CQC, CCG, GMC, RCGP and BMA; 2) a wish not to die in servitude; 3) a wish to decrease the personal tax burden caused by lifetime allowance and annual allowance tapering and 4) a wish for a life outside of medicine.’

Another GP commented: ‘I cannot envisage being able to work until I am 69 in this job – it’s unsustainable. Why else are so many younger GPs choosing portfolio careers as a way to avoid burnout?’

The survey also showed that among the 22% of GPs who responded ‘don’t know’, some pointed out they would like to retire early but fear they may not ‘have the choice’. 

One GP said: ‘It depends if I can afford it. I would like to retire early but I may not have a choice due to pension changes for locums. It’s making the payment unaffordable and annualisation is unfair for part-time workers, who generally tend to be females (like me) with young children.’

Another respondent said: ‘I don’t know but I am overwhelmed with work on a weekly basis. I don’t know how long going on like this is sustainable and I have the best part of 30 years to go before I’m at retirement age.’

Commenting on the survey, BMA GP Committee executive team workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘These survey findings are reflective of what we hear from our own members on a daily basis. While experienced GPs are working hard to provide high quality care to their patients in practices across the country, they do so under challenging circumstances.

‘We hope that recent changes, including the introduction of primary care networks, the associated funding and additional practice staff, will help address some of this burden, but there must also be support for doctors who are being pushed to the brink and increased resources to tackle the underlying problems that are leading staff to feel they are left with no choice but to leave the profession.’

He added: ‘On pensions, the Government has in its power to radically overhaul the current system – scrapping the annual and tapered annual allowance – which would prevent highly-skilled and valuable [doctors] leaving the workforce.’

Health minister Stephen Hammond admitted in May that the change to pension tax allowances ‘coincides’ with the growing number of GPs retiring early

GP leaders previously warned that the annual allowance and concerns over large tax bills have caused serious damage to recruitment and retention, with doctors either reducing their hours or taking early retirement as a result.