How to… tie up loose ends when you retire

Retiring GPs must consider their GMC registration, medical defence and other matters, says Jennifer Taylor

Retirement offers GPs many opportunities, such as pursuing new interests and foreign travel — and continuing to work part-time. But, as well as settling up financially with ex-partners and claiming your NHS pension, there are other matters to deal with, such as your GMC registration. What you decide to do about this, for example, will depend on whether you plan to work after retiring and whether this will involve treating patients.

There is no need to fret though about using the title ‘doctor’ when you fully retire. ‘Doctor’ is not a protected title and does not imply that you are registered with the GMC.

GMC register
You do not have to remain on the GMC medical register unless you decide to continue providing medical services such as prescribing. However, if you continue working as a GP, even part-time, you must keep your knowledge and skills up to date.

For non-medical work, for example, on a statutory committee or board that requires you to be medically qualified but not necessarily practising, the regulations for the composition and function of the body concerned will govern whether you need to be a GMC-registered medical practitioner.

Medical indemnity
You must have indemnity protection if practising in retirement. Check with your medical defence body or insurer if you qualify for a lower annual subscription/premium. Find out if there will be final ‘run-off’ payment when you retire fully to cover problems that come to light later but originated while you were practising.

Dr Matthew Lee, deputy head of professional services at the Medical Defence Union (MDU), says GPs who semi-retire but continue to do some locum sessions, just need to tell the MDU how many sessions a week they work. The MDU will check if a reduced subscription applies.

GPs who retire completely do not need to pay the MDU a closing payment to remain covered for matters relating to the past. You can also receive help with issues arising from Good Samaritan acts anywhere in the world after you retire.

Local performers list
If you opt to do NHS medical work after you retire, you will have to be on a primary care organisation’s (PCO) performers list. This means you will need to be prepared to participate in the PCO’s appraisal process. But if you opt to do private medical work only, you do not to need to be on a performers list.

Royal College of GPs
Fully retired GPs can remain members of the RCGP. You can also be on RCGP committees but, like any other member, you have to meet the specific committee entry requirements. Some committees do require GPs to be practising.

Fully retired members pay the minimum subscription rate of £107 (a quarter of the full rate) from 1 April, 2007. Free life membership is available to GPs who, on 1 April of any subscription year, have been a member for 40 consecutive years. A fellow, member or associate who retires but does not meet this requirement can become a life member if they pay three times the full annual subscription. They will then be exempt from annual fees.

British Medical Association
Retired BMA members pay an annual subscription of £141 instead of the standard subscription of £378. You become eligible for the reduction on the subscription renewal date (1 October) following your retirement from practice.

Concessionary rate claim forms are sent out with the subscription renewals each year. Retired GPs are free to be on BMA committees. For example, retired GP Dr Tony Calland is chairman of two BMA committees, the Medical Ethics Committee and the Welsh Council. 

Case study Returning as a sessional GP
Manchester GP Dr Martin Seely retired on 31 December 2006 at the age of 60 and took his NHS pension. Before retiring, Dr Seely merged his single-handed practice with that of another solo GP. He needs to stay GMC-registered because he is returning to work in April.

Dr Seely will be a sessional GP rather than a partner. He had to apply to go back on the PCT’s performers list to do this.

Working fewer hours entitles him to pay a reduced medical defence subscription. Retirement at 60 was not part of his overall career plan.

‘I wanted to go on to 65,’ he says, adding that this is partly because he went to medical school at the late age of 28. But last year’s constant criticism of GPs got too much for him.

‘It was a non-stop barrage. Everything we did was wrong. I’d have liked to stay on, mainly for the patients,’ he said.

He adds that it will be nice working without the bureaucracy and concentrate on the medicine.

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