Objective: To ascertain the retirement intentions of a cohort of Australian general practitioners.
Design and setting: Postal questionnaire survey of members of four Divisions of General Practice in Western Australia, sent out November 2007 - January 2008.
Participants: A sample of 178 GPs aged 45-65 years.
Main outcome measures: Intention to work in general practice until retirement; reasons for retiring before age 65 years; factors that might encourage working beyond chosen retirement age; and perceived obstacles to working in general practice.
Results: 63% of GPs intended to work to at least age 65 years, with men more likely to retire early. Of 63 GPs intending to retire early, 46% gave pressure of work, exhaustion and burnout as reasons for early retirement. Better remuneration, better staffing levels and more general support were incentives to continue working for 46% of the 64 GPs who responded to the question about incentives, and more flexible working hours, part-time work and reduced workload for 41%. Of 169 participants, 65% gave increasing bureaucracy, poor job satisfaction and disillusionment with the medical system or Medicare as obstacles to working in general practice in Australia, whereas workforce shortage, increasing patient demands and diminishing lifestyle through overwork were obstacles named by 48%.
Conclusion: Many GPs are planning to retire early, reflecting an emerging trend among professionals and society generally. Declining job satisfaction, falling workforce numbers, excessive workload and increasing bureaucracy were recurrent concerns of older WA GPs considering premature retirement.