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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.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





attitude of health personnel, medical, physicians, retirement, workforce, Adult, Aged, Attitude of Health Personnel, Decision Making, Education, Medical, Female, General Practice, Humans, Job Satisfaction, Male, Medicine, Middle Aged, Motivation, Occupational Stress, Personnel Turnover, Physicians, Retirement, Salaries and Fringe Benefits, Sex Factors, Specialization, State Medicine, Surveys and Questionnaires, United Kingdom, Workload