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 are essential to a well-balanced medical workforce, not only in supervisory roles but also in providing direct patient care alongside their colleagues. Some of the work requires 24-hour, 7-day-a-week presence in hospital, and can be demanding.
Studies are revealing a worrying trend towards earlier retirement for UK doctors. Senior doctors who have devoted their lives to caring for patients in the NHS now find themselves making difficult decisions about their continued involvement in service delivery. This means the loss of much needed and valued skills and experience from the workforce at a time of increasing demands on time and resources and for some, higher levels of stress and burnout.
This trend is of great concern to the RCOG, who believe that the wellbeing of the O&G workforce is at the heart of delivering the best care to our patients. Over the past three years we have been working to understand the workplace challenges faced by our members throughout their careers, so that we can better advocate for the needs of the profession to key stakeholders and decision makers, to mitigate this worrying trend and to support our doctors to deliver the very best for both patients and colleagues.
As part of this work, in 2019 we established a Later Career & Retirement Task and Finish Group to look more closely at the pressures faced by senior doctors and the factors influencing their retirement plans. The group conducted a survey of members aged 35 years and above to gather information on actual and planned retirement. Respondents included advanced trainees, consultants and SAS/locally employed doctors, at a range of career stages including those already retired.
The survey explored people’s reasons for retirement, whether this was earlier than planned and what, if anything, might be done to retain them for longer. The reasons for retirement included a lack of flexibility in job plans and on-call, increased pension taxation, not feeling valued, increasing workplace bureaucracy and poor team cultures as well as experiencing concerns that they will not be able to maintain the best possible personal health and wellbeing .
This report provides a summary of the factors influencing retirement plans; what can be done to support doctors who want to remain in the NHS workforce for longer and how to make the later career stage as attractive as possible to all.
We would like to thank the Later Career & Retirement Task and Finish Group for their dedication and commitment to this important work: Felicity Ashworth (Chair), Alison Wright, James Drife, Vanessa Mackay, Laura Hipple, Eman Toeima, Sarah Vause, Rhona Hughes, Simran Bansal, Emma Crookes and Victoria Bytel.
Professor Mary Ann Lumsden FRCOG
Senior Vice President, Strategic Development (2016-19) Chair, RCOG Workforce Task Group (2016-19)
Dr Jo Mountfield FRCOG
Vice President,Workforce and Professionalism Chair, RCOG Workforce Task Group (2019-Present)