Massive challenge to retain senior doctors in Scotland’s NHS

BMA Scotland

Location: Scotland
Published: Sunday 26 February 2023
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Reacting to the publication of the University of Dundee report ”Senior Hospital Doctors’ Intentions to Retire in NHS Scotland”, Dr Alan Robertson, Chair of BMA Scotland’s Consultant Committee said:

“This detailed and comprehensive research reveals the scale of the massive challenge we face in Scotland to retain our senior doctors in the NHS.

“We have warned for years that the way doctors are treated towards the end of their careers means many are being so worn down they are simply calling time early. This is costing the health service years of possible service from highly skilled professionals who have spent their whole careers gaining hugely valuable experience caring for the people of Scotland.

“This report should put the validity of these warnings and the hugely serious impact they are having beyond doubt. For too long, the concerns of senior doctors have either not been listened to or not acted on effectively and we now have a situation where 50% are planning on not working through to their retirement age. That’s a damning indictment on how we care for our doctors – and should be a major concern for all those relying on our NHS and its staff.

“At a time when our NHS is desperately struggling and patients are suffering as a result, this simply must now be the turning point when we finally see comprehensive action to ensure we do retain the senior doctors we desperately need.

“One positive from this report is it also provides a clear set of actions – and having crucial partners signed up on delivering them is really important and welcome news. I will be raising this with the Cabinet Secretary when we meet next month and I hope very much the political will is there to deliver too.

“In terms of action, we know the UK Government has recently made some changes on pension taxation which will have an impact. However – as this is the key reason many consultants have cited, it is crucial that this isn’t seen as a final or complete fix. Indeed, in Scotland, there are further changes around contribution rates that will make the scheme fairer, in particular for less than full time doctors and help us again keep doctors in the workforce.

“Beyond that, the report is clear that this is much wider issue than taxes or finances. Like any profession, the full reward package is important, but for consultants this report demonstrates the way they feel about the NHS, how they feel they are treated by their employer and the impact of decades of relentless pressure is leaving many feeling disillusioned and with little incentive to continue working even up to their retirement age. On that basis we have to look again at how we treat and support doctors towards the end of their careers, to make sure we tackle things like work-life balance and job satisfaction to restore a sense of purpose and value to their work. Indeed we need to deliver that for doctors throughout their working lives. Only by doing so will we finally begin to retain more of the senior doctors we need to care properly for the people of Scotland.”

Read the full report here: Senior Hospital Doctors’ Intentions to Retire | University of Dundee

Find a full joint statement from NHS Employers (MSG Management Steering Group), BMA Scotland and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland here: Senior Hospital Doctors’ Intentions to Retire in NHS Scotland (

Notes to editors


Tim Jays, Head of Public affairs and Strategic Comms, BMA Scotland, (0131) 2473018/07768 005850