Intended for healthcare professionals


Careers Clinic: What do I need to know when I retire?

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 14 February 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k627
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers

Start planning as early as possible”

Benjamin Holdsworth, director of Cavendish Medical, says, “From a financial perspective you need to focus first on what your ideal retirement might look like. What are your aspirations for the future and how will you reach them?

“If you want to keep working, consider what this will involve and whether your trust is amenable to ‘retiring and returning’ or job sharing. If you have a private practice, will this be your focus and do you have an ‘exit strategy’?

“Start planning as early as possible—preferably within at least five years of your desired retirement. As a busy doctor, the temptation to ignore important financial choices is great and the time available to focus on what needs to be done is short. However, making well considered decisions now will have a positive impact on your future.

“If you already have a retirement plan in place, check if it’s still an accurate reflection of your objectives. Has it kept pace with your lifestyle? Are your historic savings and investments still fit for purpose?

“While retirement can be a golden era, with the time and resources to enjoy life, for those who are not financially prepared, despite an apparently comfortable current position, it could be a time to make do on a reduced income. You may enjoy a three decade retirement and will want to ensure your standard of living is not compromised.

“The financial landscape is facing constant change and the rules and regulations surrounding pensions and tax can seem like a minefield. Seek help from an adviser with experience of NHS remuneration and pension packages.”

“Consider the options for your GMC registration”

Beverley Ward, medico-legal adviser at the Medical Defence Union, says, “Retirement doesn’t always mean the end of a medical career. Many doctors continue to work in a role related to medicine while not actually practising. On retirement, there are three options for your registration with the General Medical Council.

“The first is remaining registered with a licence to practise, which you will need to do if you want to carry on practising in some way, including prescribing and signing death and other medical certificates. You will need to continue to pay the full annual retention fee, comply with revalidation, and follow Good Medical Practice guidance.

“The second option is to remain registered without a licence to practise. This can be useful if undertaking a non-clinical role requiring medical knowledge, such as medico legal work. Again you will need to follow Good Medical Practice guidance as it applies to you. You will still be regulated by the GMC but your annual retention fee will be reduced and you can re-apply for a licence to practise at any time.

“The final option is to give up your registration and licence to practise (also known as voluntary erasure). This means that your name will stay on the register, but with the status “Not registered - having relinquished registration.” You will need to provide statements from recent employers, a certificate of good standing from any other regulators you are registered with, and sign a declaration that says you are unaware of any matters that might raise concerns about your fitness to practise. You will no longer be able to practice medicine or be regulated by the GMC. You can apply for restoration to the register at any time.

“You can continue to use the title ‘Dr’ whichever option you choose, but it would be a criminal offence to present yourself as a registered medical practitioner if you are not.”

“You are an individual, not just a professional”

Richard Rawlins, BMA retired members’ conference chair, says, “Retiring brings the chance to accomplish many dreams. It can give you the chance to travel, pursue hobbies, and finally sleep in—but it also raises fears and insecurities. Will I become lonely? Will I become bored? Will I stop learning new things?

“The BMA’s planning for retirement seminars are an ideal way to prepare for this final stage of your career. These seminars take place across the country, with expert speakers providing a thorough explanation of the common retirement issues.

“One of the topics covered at these seminars is how to look after your wellbeing once you are retired by thinking about yourself as more than just a professional, but as a unique individual. They also cover tips to help you keep in touch with the people most important to you.

“Volunteering can support your wellbeing and happiness in retirement. Consider opportunities with Médecins Sans Frontières, Merlin (a charity which aims to help people improve their lives through philosophy), or a royal college. There are also many volunteer prospects with a range of non-medical charities.

“Remember, in a way, doctors don’t ever really retire—they may not have the responsibility of treating patients but the doctors’ mindset never really goes away.”