More GPs are needed, but there are concerns about retaining the existing workforce quite apart from recruiting new doctors. This survey of GP principals in the Northern deanery aged over 45, identified factors potentially encouraging them to take early retirement (before 60) or to work on beyond 60. Over a third of those with retirement plans intended to retire early. Perceived undesirable changes in the NHS and workload were the main factors influencing intentions to retire. Reducing hours and administrative duties, and improving managerial support were factors that may encourage later retirement. Financial incentives in the form of increased pensions were most attractive to those already planning later retirement. A total of 35 per cent scored above threshold for significant psychological distress, and the higher psychological distress the earlier GPs wanted to retire. Interventions encouraging later retirement should be targeted at reducing workload and administration. Interventions to reduce stress could also encourage later retirement.