More GPs than ever are considering early retirement because of increased workloads and changes to their NHS contracts and pensions, according to a survey of family doctors by the magazine Pulse.

The survey of 364 GPs found that about 43 per cent are now looking to retire earlier than they intended five years ago, with just under half saying that their plans had not changed. The average age of intended retirement is now set at 61 years, the report says.

Of the GPs who responded to the survey, 30 per cent said they planned to retire at 55 to 59 years, 4 per cent at 60 to 64 years and 12 per cent at 65 to 70 years. Some 5 per cent said they would continue working as a GP past the age of 70 years.

Only 19 per cent of GPs said that they would continue to be in the profession beyond the age of 64 even though government reforms of health-sector pensions would mean that junior doctors now would have to work until they reach 68 to receive their full pension – in line with the rest of the working population.

Laurance Buckman, chair of the General Practitioner’s Committee of the British Medical Association, said that it was an inevitable consequence of the way the Government had treated the profession over recent years.

“The contractual changes, and the pressure of work related to that, the inability to earn a living, the changes to GP pensions and the capping of pensions more generally…. between all of those, there are now a lot of reasons why GPs will consider premature retirement,” Dr Buckman told Pulse.

Even though the Government has introduced changes to GP pensions, raising both contributions and retirement ages, it has argued that the retirement packages for NHS doctors are still very generous compared with many private-sector schemes that are not based on a percentage of final salaries.