This survey gathered data on the retirement intentions of consultant psychiatrists over the age of 50 years, in order to address retention issues. A questionnaire was sent to all 1438 consultants over this age in the UK.
A total of 848 questionnaires were returned, an adjusted response rate of 59%. The mean age at which consultants intended to retire in this sample was 60 years (s.d. 4.16), suggesting a potential loss of 5725 consultant years. Reasons for early retirement are complex: factors encouraging retirement include too much bureaucracy, lack of free time and heavy case-loads; those discouraging retirement include enjoyment of work, having a good team and money. Mental Health Officer status is an important determinant in the decision to retire early.
With numerous vacancies in consultant psychiatrist posts throughout the UK, premature retirement is a cause for concern, possibly contributing to an overall reduction in consultant numbers of 5%. Addressing factors that influence consultants' decisions to leave the health service early should form an important part of an overall strategy to increase consultant numbers.
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