The number of doctors taking early retirement has more than tripled since 2008, raising fears that burnout and high pension tax bills are prompting doctors to leave the NHS.
While 401 general practitioners and hospital doctors in England and Wales took early retirement in 2007-08, that number had climbed to 1,358 in 2020-2021, an increase of 239% in 13 years.
Doctors who quit before retirement are also getting younger – the average age is now just 59 – a new BMJ study finds.
The medical journal obtained the figures from the NHS Business Services Authority through a Freedom of Information request.
There are growing concerns that the Covid pandemic has intensified the pressure that many doctors were already under due to the growing demand for NHS care in recent years and has increased the number of doctors with mental health issues such as than anxiety and PTSD.
Many doctors work long hours, including anti-social shifts, and complain about relentless workloads, while some struggle to balance childcare with the demands of working in the NHS.
Professor Martin Marshall, President of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said: “These numbers reflect what we are hearing from our members in general practice. The intense workload and staff pressures under which general practitioners and our teams have worked, which predate Covid-19 but which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, are wreaking havoc.
“When well-trained and often very experienced general practitioners decide to leave the profession earlier than expected due to workload pressure, it is a huge loss for the profession and for the care of the elderly. patients. “
A recent survey of RCGP members found that 8% of respondents plan to leave the profession within the next year, 15% within the next two years and 34% within the next five years, Marshall said. While around half of them were due to retire, a quarter of affected general practitioners identified stress and burnout as reasons for leaving.
If they quit smoking, it could amount to the loss of 3,000 of the 40,000 family doctors in the UK by 2022, 6,000 by 2023 and 14,000 by 2026, he said. added. This would jeopardize Boris Johnson’s ability to deliver on his pledge to increase the number of general practitioners by 6,000 by 2024.
The British Medical Association, the main union for doctors, said many doctors are taking early retirement in order to avoid being hit by heavy pension tax bills.
“Repeated surveys by the BMA have shown that more than half of doctors plan to retire before age 60, with the majority citing the taxation of pensions as the main reason,” said Dr Vishal Sharma, chairman of the pension committee of the BMA.
The number of doctors taking early retirement has increased dramatically since the government began to change the NHS pension scheme and the rules for taxing pensions. Doctors had little choice but to consider early retirement, Sharma said.
“The combination of an exhausted workforce coupled with the freeze of the lifetime allowance [until 2026] being imposed at the same time will potentially lead to a mass exodus of highly experienced physicians at a time when patients need them most. “
In 2013-2014, the highest number of physicians in the past 13 years took early retirement: 2,069. Tom Moberly, the BMJ reporter who undertook the research, said the large increase that year “is likely to be due to doctors leaving before the 2015 changes to the NHS pension scheme. In 2015, the NHS closed two sections of the NHS pension scheme, moving three quarters of staff to a new scheme with less valuable pension benefits. “
The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs has been approached for comment.