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NHS News - Thousands of NHS hospital consultants intend to quit years before retirement, survey finds

Posted on 11/01/2019 by David Burgess

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'Implications of such a significant loss of skilled and specialist clinicians is potentially disastrous,' says BMA

Thousands of senior hospital doctors are planning to leave the NHS years early, according to a survey.

Six out of 10 consultants intend to retire before or at the age of 60 to cut back their working hours, the research found.

The British Medical Association, which questioned more than 4,000 consultants for the survey, said so many experienced doctors leaving would be “potentially disastrous”.

More than two-thirds (69.7 per cent) of those surveyed were hoping to achieve a better work-life balance.

Concerns over limits on how much they are allowed to save for their pensions was the second-biggest factor consultants were worried about.

At least a third said they expected to cut the number of days they work in the NHS by up to half.

And almost 18 per cent are already planning to reduce their working time further, including giving up altogether, the survey found.

NHS bosses say they are expanding flexible working opportunities to help staff improve their work-life balance.

“The implications of such a significant loss of skilled and specialist clinicians both on the junior staff they teach and the patients they care for is potentially disastrous for the already beleaguered health service,” the BMA trade union said.

The survey found that more than two in five (40 per cent) said they were less likely to take part in work initiatives to reduce waiting lists – or have already given up.

Fewer than 7 per cent said they expected to remain working in the NHS after the age of 65.

The national compulsory retirement age was scrapped in 2011.

NHS consultants earn from £77,913 to £105,042 in basic pay depending on length of service, which is topped up by bonus awards. Those can be worth almost at least as much, bringing some pay packets to £180,000.

In addition, consultants can earn several times their salaries in private practice. Figures obtained by the BBC last year showed the highest paid doctor in the NHS in 2016-17 was earning £740,000.

The £20bn blueprint, which relies on recruiting thousands of nurses and doctors a year from overseas, includes targets to diagnose three-quarters of cancer cases early enough for successful treatment. 

“This survey indicates these promises will come to naught if the specialist staff needed to provide the care have left the NHS,” the BMA said.

Dr Rob Harwood, chairman of the BMA consultants committee, said: “During a deepening workforce crisis, the NHS needs its most experienced and expert doctors now more than ever.

“I struggle to understand how the health secretary can talk about increasing productivity in hospital care while allowing the NHS to be a system which perversely encourages its most experienced doctors to do less work and, in some cases, to leave when they do not want to.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “There are currently record numbers of dedicated NHS consultants working to make sure patients get excellent, safe care, and we are supporting them by training 25 per cent more doctors to ensure we have a strong consultant workforce for the future.

“We are also expanding flexible working opportunities to help staff improve their work-life balance.”

Source: TheIndependent