Early retirees remain lions led by donkeys

We are all going to have to work longer before we can retire.

The GP Record, by Fran Orford www.francartoons.com
The GP Record, by Fran Orford www.francartoons.com

A generous pension which could be drawn early was always a major perk of working in the NHS and helped counter some of its more difficult aspects. But the banking crisis and the spendthrift approach of Gordon Brown when chancellor meant the country can no longer afford such luxuries.

But why do so many doctors want to retire early? Think back to your student days when so many of us were starry-eyed about our profession. We wanted to change the world, do good, save lives and ease suffering. Yet many of these same people are now counting the days until they can retire - exhausted and burned out, not by the exigencies of the profession but by the constant battle against stupidity in high places and increasing litigation. It makes me despair when I see top-class consultants and GPs who are desperate to retire early. What a loss to medicine this represents, and what a cost to society!

Undoubtedly medicine itself is a hard task-master and causes great emotional and mental stress. But by far the biggest strain for NHS doctors is battling against the system. Most early retirees have experienced this - lions, often led by managerial donkeys too blinkered or uncaring to realise the long-term damage to morale their interference causes.

Like everyone else in the UK, doctors will have to bite the bullet over delayed retirement. Nevertheless this situation presents a golden opportunity for the DoH to think about improving the mental environment of NHS clinicians.

Introducing no-fault compensation would reduce the need for patient litigation. Achieving revalidation through light-touch monitoring would free up more of doctors' time.

Curbing managers' knee-jerk reaction of 'wanting more statistics'; reducing the number of unnecessary non-clinical meetings; recognising that there are only 48 hours in the European working week and not filling them up unnecessarily - all these would go a long way to improving clinicians' working conditions and ultimately their morale.

If the DoH can sort out these unnecessary stresses it might just end up with doctors who love their jobs so much that they don't actually want to retire - the ultimate win-win situation.

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