A report by BMJ Careers today shows that the number of consultants who take voluntary early retirement in 2011 has soared up by almost three quarters compared with 2010. According to the BMA, this staggering rate reflects consultants’ growing dissatisfaction in terms of the ongoing changes within the NHS.

The report, based on new data obtained from the NHS Business Services Authority Pensions Division demonstrates that the number of consultants who have opted for voluntary early retirement before the age of 60 has risen by 72.4% from 2010 to 2011. Whilst 98 consultants opted for voluntary early retirement in 2010, the numbers increased to 169 in 2011. The proportion of consultants opting for early retirement has almost doubled over the last 5 years from 7.3% in 2006 to 14.0% in 2011.

Deputy chairman of the BMA’s Consultants Committee, Ian Wilson explained that the reasons why many consultants chose to retire at the earliest possible opportunity is based on a combination of factors, including changes to NHS pensions, working increasingly long hours and increased work intensity, partly caused because of less junior doctors’ being available due to working time restrictions, as well as the reform of the NHS.

Dr. Wilson declared:

“Anecdotally doctors are telling us all the time that if they could retire, they would retire, whereas in the past doctors tended to want to carry on for as long as they were able to. People are feeling disempowered by NHS structures and NHS functioning, and there’s an attraction for people to retire from the rat race.”

He added that many consultants are frustrated with the direction the health service is taking as a result of the ongoing reforms set out in the Health and Social Care bill, but also due to other changes that are taking place.

To top it all, the planned changes for public sector pensions, such as higher contribution rates and the end of final salary pensions are almost forcing consultants now to choose early retirement rather than staying on whilst the government is toying over the proposals.

The NHS Business Services Authority states that the increase in early retirements amongst consultants is partly driven by the changing age profile of consultants and the increased size of the consultant workforce, which has grown by 4.5% each year over the past decade.

Written by Petra Rattue