17 views on GP shortage & early retirement

In response to a previous article written by our Clinical Content Editor, Dr Hayley Willacy, this month we asked subscribers to our newsletter for healthcare professionals, the following question: GP shortage and retirement - will you retire early and what would make you stay? Here are 17 responses we received:

Our GPs are extremely important to the public but we need to use other professions to help take pressure off GP workload. Nurses, consultants, pharmacists - we need think outside of the box, to carry on maintaining our current excellent standards. Peter Cafferky

I have a long-term illness (I had a kidney transplant in 2000) and as much as I would like to work until I am 60/67, I anticipate I will not be able too. I want to have some time enjoying my retirement before the probability of illness - what do I do? Work until I drop? That is not a prospect I look forward too.
Angela Peake, (Research Nurse)

There has been a change in the priorities of GP. Previously professionalism was trusted and the doctor left to get on with the job in the best way he could. Now the aims of the job include processes like QOF and these significantly affect the way doctors think. Two important consequences follow: one is that the doctor's goal in a consultation diverges from just dealing with the patients concerns to include collecting data; and secondly because the consultation time has remained the same it has become much more pressured than it used to be. This is why I retired from my partnership at the age of 60 years old, but I have continued as a salaried employee, doing less hours and am much happier in my work. John Salmon

I am a hard worker and I really have no desire to retire at 60 years of age because I think at this age we really need to be self-dependent and I don't want to be dependent on any one. I think everyone should have their own freedom of living and at that age our medical expenses are more than our other luxuries. But I strongly believe in working and being fit so that I can enjoy each and every moment of my life! Yogita Soni

I'm not surprised at the news. I am taking VR from BAe at 56 because of the stress of constantly being asked to "improve"; i.e. do more for less but not put safety at risk. I think GPs are under a lot of pressure to do 10-minute appointments and be ready for each and do follow up actions such as referral letters after. We need to train more GPs to share the burden of an increasing and aging population. Mark Haberfield 

Yes in short. Early retirement is the norm for particularly stressful jobs such as psychiatrists and anaesthetists who can pull a full pension at 55. GP partnership full time is now as stressful as these jobs and so early retirement is needed for health reasons. I think it's a sad loss of a massive amount of excellent resource and reflects the usual neglect of the workforce support and moral that is typical of public sector workers. In particular GPs have been given more and more to do over the last few decades with no additional resource - and I mean community team support to help deliver a holistic service. The government have always tried to bribe GPs with extra pots of money to get them to do more but the level of despondency now is such that the dog no longer barks for the biscuit. The new incentive should be to build a great community team of services so that the GP feels the job is satisfying again. I have chosen to go part time and develop a portfolio career and still work as a GP locum from 55-60 and a part time commissioner for mental health. Dr Sohrab Panday

Both my husband (also a GP) do not feel we can sustain the strain of our workload. We now job share but are still doing 10- to 11- hour days. We will leave general practice at the age of 55 and hope to downsize our home in order to manage. There is no way I'd work beyond 55 at this pace. Constant unrealistic expectations from patients and inappropriate demands are ruining a job that is a privilege. Jaweeda Idoo

I am 59 in April 2015 and, on May 4, 2015 I will retire. I had planned to work until 2021. The workload, the disgraceful attitude of politicians of all parties, the decimation of our pension benefits coupled with excessive increases in contributions, the farce of QOF, the constant blaming of GPs for all the shortcomings of the NHS by the government and the media, their failure to show any appreciation of what we do or the pressure we are under. All this has led to my decision.
Nick Shepherd

Too late. I have already retired, fed up with government meddling, a hostile press and ridiculous target-driven management decisions. Getting rid of targets and political interference might have changed my mind, but I am very glad not to be a GP any more! David Porter

I am staying on at age 61 as a sessional GP. There is plenty of work available which is predominantly clinical, well-paid, well-appreciated and allows flexibility. I shall continue as long as my health and that of my retired non-medical husband allows. But thank goodness for those younger GPs who are willing to take responsibility for running their practices. They are the unsung heroes of the NHS and deserve all the support that the country can provide, to maintain the health service we know and love! Brigid Lomax

I shall probably retire early. My biggest issues are the relentless negativity in the media and the belief in the general population that GPs and their staff are there to be abused. Having entered a profession that was once respected and appreciated by all, I now find myself in a profession that has become the media's whipping boy. I find this very hard to accept when I spend my working life trying to help people! Unfortunately anything that is free at point of access is open to abuse. If people don't start to treat the service with some appreciation and respect there will no longer be a service for them to criticise and whinge about. Maria O'Reilly

GPs have been overpaid and had it so comfortable for such a long time they don't realise how easy they have it. They don't work evenings, weekends or Bank Holidays and yet take home a very handsome salary. I think they need to stop complaining and realise they have to enter the 21st century and provide a more accessible service for the public. They are the only medical group I know that shut for an hour at lunch and have regular half days shut for training and don't provide any cover during these times. A&E and Minor Injuries Units are constantly mopping up their patients and yet don't receive any payment from them when the government are paying them to see those patients. The government is effectively paying twice. Suzy Rickard

Already jumped ship, absolutely loving having time to do the things I like and spend time with family and friends. I could not even begin to imagine going back into the fray. Life had become pretty bad; coming home from work completely drained every day I went in. Like many people who have retired I have found life is so full. I don't know how I found time to work. My ex-partners tell me that expectations and workload are even worse now. Something radical needs to be done to address workload soon - maybe the "army of pharmacists" idea could help. Dr Paula O'Donnell

Working in the NHS is stressful on all levels. We do not have enough qualified people to take the place of those retiring and the younger ones will not gain the trust of the elderly so easily. The pressure of targets causes more stress and they are taking precedence over actual care. So yes I can understand why they wish to retire. I work in the ambulance service. I can't get my pension until I'm 67. I'm struggling now, as are my colleagues, trying to carry people who are getting heavier; our backs won't take it. Unfortunately our targets preceded care as well, so more are leaving and we are having to recruit from Australia. Sarah Gerry

I have recently retired - at 60 - but in the year before doing so, I used to lie awake worrying about how my remaining partners would cope in the future. I recently helped out with an urgent locum in my old practice, and two of the partners had 34 triage or telephone calls each to make after their long morning surgeries. Before I retired, I worked very efficiently; 70+ hour weeks at flat-out pace. I don't know who the GPs are who are going to accommodate all the t/f of work from hospital to the community that the politicians tell us is going to solve the problems of the NHS! The very survival of general practice is at stake. In our delightful county, there are reckoned to be 10 practices that may collapse within a year. The public, as it makes ever-increasing demands, the politicians as they promise to fulfil their every whim, and the Department of Health, who so incompetently, and, at times almost malevolently, tinker, seem to have no idea that they may have no service soon. 
Andrew Quayle

These are the following reasons I think; low morale, pressure from regulatory bodies, pressure of works, blame culture in NHS now, pointing finger to the GP when something goes wrong, hardly ever get a word of appreciation…more to add. The whole of society has got the responsibility to advise the population to use the resources with care, so all will be benefitted by our NHS. Dr M.P. Sahu

How about the view of a patient employed in the private sector? GPs don't know what a golden job they have. I earn a salary very similar to a GP. I can't retire early so I have to work until I am 65 or leave with no money. My employer expects me to work five days a week, part-time is not an option, with no days off to earn more money doing other health work or go shopping. I have to pay tax under PAYE and am not allowed preferential partnership tax rates. My employer dictates my salary, not the partners. My pension is based on a pot of money, no salary-based scheme available. My employer only contributes 6% to my pension. My employer expects me to travel vast distances to clients in my own time, often at weekends. A typical working day for me is 9am to 6.30pm, five days a week, excluding my long commute. My IT job is very stressful, with irate users rather than patients. I am expected to work any day, anytime. I invite any GP to join me for a week and then say they don't have a great job. Dr Lilian Hobbs