Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Factors influencing the decisions of senior UK doctors to retire or remain in medicine: National surveys of the UK-trained medical graduates of 1974 and 1977

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Fay SmithORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


© Article author(s) (or their employer(s) unless otherwise stated in the text of the article) 2017. All rights reserved. No commercial use is permitted unless otherwise expressly granted. Objective To report attitudes to retirement of late-career doctors. Design Questionnaires sent in 2014 to all UK medical graduates of 1974 and 1977. Setting United Kingdom. Participants 3695 medical graduates. Main outcome measures Factors which influenced doctors' decisions to retire and factors which encouraged doctors to remain in work. Results The response rate was 85% (3695/4369). 55% of respondents overall were still working in medicine (whether they had not retired or had retired and returned; 61% of men, 43% of women). Of the retirees, 67% retired when they had originally planned to, and 28% had changed their retirement plans. Fifty per cent of retired doctors cited 'increased time for leisure/other interests' as a reason; 43% cited 'pressure of work'. Women (21%) were more likely than men (11%) to retire for family reasons. Women (27%) were more likely than men (9%) to retire because of the retirement of their spouse. General practitioners (GPS) were more likely than doctors in other specialties to cite 'pressure of work'. Anaesthetists and GPS were more likely than doctors in other specialties to cite the 'possibility of deteriorating skill/competence'. Radiologists, surgeons, obstetricians and gynaecologists, and anaesthetists were most likely to cite 'not wanting to do out-of-hours work'. Doctors who were still working were asked what would encourage them to stay in medicine for longer. Factors cited most frequently were 'reduced impact of work-related bureaucracy' (cited by 45%) and 'workload reduction/shorter hours' (42%). Men (30%) were more motivated than women (20%) by 'financial incentivisation'. Surgeons were most motivated by 'reduction of on-call or emergency commitments'. Conclusions Retention policy should address ways of optimising the clinical contribution of senior doctors while offering reduced workloads in the areas of bureaucracy and working hours, particularly in respect of emergency commitments.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Smith F, Lachish S, Goldacre MJ, Lambert TW

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMJ Open

Year: 2017

Volume: 7

Issue: 9

Online publication date: 31/10/2017

Acceptance date: 21/06/2017

Date deposited: 28/05/2019

ISSN (electronic): 2044-6055

Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017650

PubMed id: 29089347


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name