A survey by Devon LMC, completed by 340 GPs, found that only 28.5% of respondents did not have at least one partner over the age of 55.
The LMC warned that ‘if those who can leave do leave, over 70% of remaining GPs will have partnership vacancies they will find difficult to fill’.
A total of 36% of the county’s GPs would consider taking early retirement because of pension changes. A further 29% said they would consider 24-hour retirement.
Of GPs who would consider early retirement, just 28% would return to 75 to 100% of their current hours.
So many GPs taking early and 24-hour retirement would be a ‘catastrophic blow’ to the workforce, LMC chairman Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said.
Dr Sanford warned that those leaving ‘are likely to be the profession’s most experienced members’.
He described the government’s current pension reform proposals as ‘greed’.
Dr Sanford-Wood said as far as he was aware Devon did not have a larger than average number of older GPs. He said it was therefore likely that the findings in Devon would be consistent across the country.
‘As a result of this policy the British public should be prepared for a future in which they visit their doctor, but find instead an empty chair,’ Dr Sanford-Wood said.
BMA pensions committee chairman Dr Andrew Dearden said the survey reflected GPs’ concerns across the UK.
‘That’s reflected across all the meetings that we’ve held from Scotland to Salisbury. I’m not told anything other than it is seriously making people consider retiring early and consider their commitment to the NHS.
Dr Dearden said pension reforms represented a significant problem for the GP workforce.