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‘I’d reached the lifetime allowance. I had high blood pressure, which was almost certainly caused by the stress… added to the fact that I didn’t think that we were able to provide a safe service to our patients.’
Dr Michael Crow, locum GP in Surrey, retired aged 55
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‘I’d always planned to try and retire at 55, and nothing about my work made me consider changing my plans. ‘My generation of doctors worked 80-100 hour weeks, mostly for 30% of normal pay and was told it would be worth it. I did my own on-call for a few years until I had children and only took three months off each time. Having given 38 years to becoming and being a GP, I’m enjoying some me time.’
Dr Sally Whale, GP in Ipswich, retired aged 55
‘The only thing that could have made me stay was having enough practice income to attract and retain sufficient doctors to reduce everybody’s stress down to a more bearable level.’
Dr Prit Buttar, GP in Scotland, retiring this year aged 59
‘I’ve just run out of steam. Everything is getting harder and I think I’ve battled through with an incredible number of stresses and strains, to keep going and work beyond the call of duty.’
Dr Richard Holman, GP in Barnstaple, retiring in October aged 58
Thinking of cashing in your pension?
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My advice to anybody thinking about retiring is take individual personal financial advice. You can’t give generic advice, particularly to GPs, because it depends on their lifetime earnings, on what other investments they’ve got and to some extent on their health as well. It also depends on their actual earnings in any given year and what inflation’s doing, so any generic advice is bad advice.
Sometimes if you retire early and you want to carry on locuming, a financial advisor will look very carefully at any potential extra tax you’ll pay, compared with the extra long-term income you can put into your pension, and, again, that will depend on your individual circumstances.
Many GPs think that because they are going to go into a higher tax bracket for lifetime allowance, it’s automatically a good idea to stop. But for some people it isn’t, because the potential extra gains on their pension in the long term still outweigh the fact that they’ve got to pay extra tax and there are other penalties to consider if you take your pension early.
For a lot of older GPs it may not make sense to retire early but for some of them it undoubtedly will. Everybody’s circumstances are different, particularly in general practice because it’s not a salaried job.
Dr David Bailey is pensions lead for the BMA’s GP Committee and chair of the BMA’s Welsh Council