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NHS employers must improve support for older doctors, BMA says


By Valeria Fiore
Reporter
4 March 2019

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The BMA is advising NHS employers that they need to get better at accommodating the needs of older doctors, who represent a significant proportion of the workforce.

A  BMA report published last week – Supporting an ageing medical workforce – suggested that employers should become more aware of the needs of older doctors, as around 50% of the NHS staff are aged 45 or over.

The NHS stands to gain from retaining older doctors on a number of different levels, including that many elderly patients prefer being treated by them, the report said. Additionally, older doctors are more experienced and play important roles as mentors, trainers and role models.

The report found that 85% of the 123 respondents to a BMA survey said health and wellbeing was the most important reason for considering early retirement, while 66% said it was down to workload and 61% to burnout.

Actions suggested by the BMA to retain older doctors in the workforce include favouring more flexible and part-time working, scheduling ‘transition to retirement discussions’ to understand their needs and help them remain at work, the report said.

Employers also need to make sure older doctors are ‘getting appropriate rest breaks during their shifts’ and have appropriate facilities available to allow them to rest, the report said.

It added that NHS managers should also consider whether they can offer non-clinical work opportunities to older doctors, such as ‘working in management, teaching, research or as appraisers’.

Commenting on the report, BMA deputy chair of council Dr David Wrigley said: ‘Older doctors can contribute their skills in other ways and the NHS must recognise and support this.’

A rise in early retirement

According to a recent BMJ freedom of information request, more hospital doctors are choosing to retire early, with the number in England and Wales increasing from 164 in 2008 to 397 in 2018.

The BMA renewed calls for the Government to review the taxation rules around pensions which, the doctors’ union said, are encouraging more GPs and doctors to retire earlier or reduce their working hours.

Dr Wrigley said: ‘The Government must review pensions arrangements for both working doctors, and for doctors in retirement so that they are not disadvantaged financially by deciding to return to the workplace.’

He added: ‘Employers must do all they can to make it easier for older doctors to work in the NHS, so their skills and experience can be retained and passed on.’

NHS Employers director of development and employment Sue Covill said: ‘Many organisations in the NHS are offering flexible ways of working to meet the needs of patients and staff and recognise that many staff highlight the need for predictability in their working pattern.

‘For employers and their staff reform of the pension taxation system is critical in ensuring the pension scheme encourages colleagues to continue to work for patients rather than creating a disincentive to work longer.’

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