GP early retirements have doubled since start of the decade

Numbers of GPs taking early retirement each year have doubled since the start of the decade, a health minister has admitted.

Figures published by health minister Steve Brine show that in 2016/17, 784 GPs across England and Wales retired before the age of 60 - up from 398 in 2009/10.

Over the eight years from 2009/10 to 2016/17, 5,437 GPs have retired before the age of 60 - with one in eight leaving the profession because of ill health.

The figures place fresh pressure on the government over its pledge to increase the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020/21. In November last year, GPonline reported that the general practice workforce dropped by almost 1,300 full-time equivalent GPs between September 2015 and September 2017.

The figures on GP retirements came in response to a written question from Labour shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth.

Retirement due to ill health

The number of GPs retiring early peaked at 844 in 2014/15 - with 106 leaving the profession due to ill health in that year alone. Numbers retiring early rose in 2016/17 - the most recent year for which figures are available.

Numbers of GPs retiring early due to ill health have not risen in line with the overall increase in early retirement, the figures show.

But the figures reflect BMA polls showing that GPs planned to retire early, and closely reflect a survey by the medico-legal organisation the MDU last year, which found that around 40% of its members were retiring before 60, compared with 21% in 2011.

Mr Brine's response said the figures provided were from NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) data on GPs claiming their pensions at retirement, and included the 'vast majority of GPs currently retiring'.

The health minister added: 'Many GPs elect to return to the NHS in a non-pensionable capacity after claiming their NHS pension. The NHSBSA does not hold information regarding GPs who retire from the NHS in a non-pensionable capacity.'

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