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OBJECTIVE: To report on the future career plans of senior doctors working in the NHS. DESIGN: Postal questionnaires. SETTING: All doctors who qualified in 1977 from all UK medical schools. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Future plans and whether participants had any unmet needs for advice on how to put their future plans into effect. RESULTS: 25% definitely intended to continue with their current employment on the same basis until they retired; 75% hoped for change. A reduction in working hours was the most commonly desired change; but a substantial percentage also wanted changes in job content. 50% of respondents intended definitely (17%) or probably (33%) to work in the NHS to their normal retirement age; and 37% definitely (20%) or probably (17%) intended to retire early. 48% had made plans, in addition to the standard pension, to facilitate early retirement. The main factors given for considering early retirement were family reasons and wanting more time for leisure, a desire to maintain good health, excessive pressure of work, and disillusionment with NHS changes. A reduction in workload would be the greatest inducement to stay. 31% of respondents reported that they had unmet needs for advice about their future plans. Of these, about half were needs for advice about planning for retirement. CONCLUSIONS: Many senior NHS doctors would like to reduce their working hours. Less than a quarter definitely intend to work in the NHS to normal retirement age. Even for senior doctors, advice on career development is needed.

Original publication




Journal article


J R Soc Med

Publication Date





182 - 190


Career Choice, Cohort Studies, Female, Humans, Intention, Job Satisfaction, Male, Middle Aged, Physicians, State Medicine, Surveys and Questionnaires, United Kingdom