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You should start planning for a fulfilling retirement many years in advance. You will need to consider when you retire, whether you will continue working part-time, and how you will manage the financial and lifestyle aspects of retiring.

Is there a default retirement age for a surgeon? 

The default retirement age (formerly 65) has been phased out (see the website for more information about this), and it is now difficult for an NHS employer to insist that you retire. However, you must work within your competence and ensure your practice is safe.

Effective retirement planning

Retirement planning seminars are held throughout the UK; the BMA runs a number of such events. You may also want to employ a financial advisor who specialises in planning for retirement or working with doctors.

Involving your Trust/Unit in your retirement plans will help them with succession planning, and you may be able to overlap your retirement with the start of your replacement’s work.

Alternative work patterns

If you choose to retire relatively early, you may be able to renegotiate a part-time contract or stop doing on-call. You may be able to negotiate this prior to retirement, but if you are on a final salary pension scheme you should check the financial implications of this decision.

NHS Employers has a flexible retirement hub which provides information about planning and organising flexible retirement.

Alternative (post-retirement) roles and voluntary roles

It is worth considering what other roles you might want to take on when you retire. If you want to continue to work in a role related to surgery, you could apply for various College positions, or get involved with a university surgical society as an informal tutor. If you would prefer to continue to do clinical work, organisations such as Medecins sans Frontieres offer opportunities to practice in developing countries. Alternatively, you may prefer to focus on personal projects such as renovating a house or writing a book.

Financial considerations

You should check the details of your pension scheme: some members of the NHS pension find that it is more financially beneficial to retire around their 60th birthday. If you choose to do this, you may be able to continue working on a part time basis.

More information about the NHS pension is available from the NHS Business Services Authority.

GMC registration

All doctors wishing to practice medicine in the UK will be required to hold both registration and a licence to practice. Retired doctors might wish to retain their registration to prove their good standing with the GMC if they intend to carry out non-clinical but related roles such as consultancy. It should be noted that doctors who are registered but not licensed may not continue to prescribe.

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