Will there be a doctor in the house? - Retirement intentions of Australian GPs aged 45-65 years


Aims & rationale/Objectives: To examine the retirement intentions of a cohort of older Australian GPs and the reasons behind these intentions. Retirement intentions assume critical importance as workforce ages. GPs usually one of the latest retiring but recent demographic changes and shifting attitudes to work have led to a change. Minimising premature retirement is a key factor in maintaining supply.

Methods: Questionnaires were mailed to 478 GPs from four WA Divisions of General Practice (November 2007 to January 2008). Modified 18 item UK questionnaire was used.

Principal findings: Response rate was 59%. 63% intended working to normal retirement, a third planned early retirement. Pressure of work, exhaustion and burnout were reasons given. 65% listed increasing bureaucracy, lack of job satisfaction and disillusionment with medical system as major obstacles to general practice. 48% gave work shortages, increasing patient demands and overwork as other obstacles. Better remuneration, better staffing and support followed by flexible work hours, part-time work and reduced workload might encourage some to continue working. Women were more likely to continue working longer than men.

Implications: Changing societal demographics and changing professional discourses to work affect GPs' ability to meet demands for health care. Australia cannot afford to lose large numbers of its experienced GP workforce. Reasons for reported loss of job satisfaction among GPs need to addressed - a step-down approach that still maintains their engagement in the workforce may help. It is cheaper to encourage older GPs to remain working than to train one (or two) new doctors to replace them.


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