Since April 2013 almost 3,000 GPs have claimed their pension before the age of 60.
According to statistics from the NHS Business Services Authority, the average age of those drawing their pensions has dropped, from 60.4 years in 2011/12 to 58.5 years in 2016/17.
These figures strike a further blow to the Government’s target of increasing the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020 – a figure that was already facing increasing doubt after official figures last year documented a net loss of 1,200 GPs between September 2016 and September 2017, even after a record number of trainees were recruited across the same period.
There are no official statistics on retirement numbers as the figures only show how many GPs have begun drawing out their pensions for the first time. This does not necessarily mean that the GP has taken retirement, with many GPs who have drawn their pensions taking ’24-hour retirement’, where they will be carrying out shifts at the same time as receiving pensions pay-outs.
However, the BMA’s GP committee pensions lead Dr David Bailey says: ‘If you draw your pension before 60 there’s a significant financial hit, so I can’t see why you’d want to do that, rather than wait until you can draw it unreduced, unless you’re actually retiring.’
The BMA’s GP committee pensions lead Dr David Bailey said: ‘A significant number are retiring because the indemnity costs involved mean a small amount of part-time work is just no longer a feasible option.’
The latest data from NHS Digital on the revised GP retainer scheme – the scheme that incentives GPs who were thinking of leaving to take on extra shifts – shows that as of September 2017, the scheme has only convinced 218 GPs (90 full-time equivalents) to stay on.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA GP committee workforce lead, said the increasing rate of early retirement is ‘concerning for the stability of the GP workforce’ adding that the problem is compounded by ‘too few trainees’ choosing general practice.