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Retire and Return

In order to provide high quality, safe and compassionate care to women, the workforce must have sufficient numbers of experienced, senior staff who are skilled, healthy and committed.

Senior obstetricians and gynaecologists play a crucial role in this by delivering both direct patient care and supervision to their colleagues.

Research indicates a trend of more UK doctors retiring earlier. Senior doctors who have dedicated their professional lives to providing care for patients in the NHS are now faced with tough choices regarding their continued participation in service delivery 15.This trend is concerning due to the loss of capacity and a wealth of skills, knowledge and experience from the O&G workforce. The RCOG Later Career & Retirement Task and Finish Group was established in 2018 to investigate the challenges senior doctors face and the various factors affecting their retirement plans. Members aged 35 years and older were surveyed to gather data on actual and planned retirement. The survey explored the reasons behind people's early retirement, whether this was anticipated, and what steps, if any, could be taken to keep them working longer. You can read the findings of this survey in our RCOG later career and retirement report, (2020).

In the report Retaining Doctors in Late Stage Careers’, June 2023, NHS England outlined a plethora of factors that motivate doctors in the later stages of their careers to remain in the workforce. These include flexible working options, adjustments to clinical responsibilities, access to learning opportunities and being adequately supported. The RCOG Later Careers and Retirement report outlines key changes at the national, departmental and individual level to ensure doctors who want to remain in the workforce are supported. The RCOG Workforce Report 2022 outlines challenges and benefits for the organisation, team and individual of flexible working approaching retirement.

NHS England's National Retention Programme highlighted that doctors' professional aspirations can evolve with time, with a number of common reasons encouraging doctors in their later stages of their careers to continue practicing. According to a 2017 Royal College of Physicians (RCP) of London survey, 69% of consultants between the ages of 55 and 60 said they would like to retire and go back to working less than full time (LTFT).

To address the trends of doctors retiring earlier, the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan (published in June 2023) outlined a commitment to modernise the NHS Pension Scheme to allow doctors to partially retire or return to work. Under NHS England’s retire and re-join scheme, employees in England can resign, take their full pension, take a brief leave of absence, and then return to work to continue accruing future pension benefits. This flexibility will enable the workforce to continue benefitting from the skills and knowledge of senior doctors.

In addition, NHSE are encouraging retired doctors to return to the health service to help bring down long waits for elective care through the NHS Emeritus pilot scheme which will run from June 2023 – September 2024.

There are a number of resources for those considering returning to practice after retirement: