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RCP Later Careers Guidance

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), alongside the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, has published new guidance aimed at supporting hospital doctors aged 50 and over to continue working sustainably in the NHS.

The NHS is facing a workforce crisis. Senior doctors are valuable members of the NHS workforce and more needs to be done to retain them. Working at a later stage of a consultant career brings benefits to patients, the individual doctor, the hospital, and the wider medical community.

The RCP has today published an update to its 2018 Later Careers guidance. The updated guidance draws on new data from a survey of doctors aged 50 and over carried out by all three UK Colleges of Physicians in 2023. It sets out a range of recommendations on key motivators that would keep senior doctors working to help physicians, those involved in NHS workforce planning and the General Medical Council (GMC) prevent the loss of expertise and skills from the profession.

The new findings show that over one third of senior consultant physicians who are not yet retired say that they want to retire early. The findings also reveal that integrating flexible working for senior doctors could significantly improve retention rates; 58% of consultant physicians would delay retirement if they could work flexibly or reduce their hours.

Experienced doctors have the skills to undertake a variety of roles, including teaching, training and mentoring, but currently teaching is often cancelled due to immediate patient activity demands. These roles should be properly embedded into senior doctors’ job plans.

The recommendations set out in the guidance include:

  • Make flexible or part‐time working options available to senior doctors
  • From the age of 60 a consultant should opt into on‐call only if they wish to
  • Embed time for teaching when job planning senior doctors
  • Employers should consider whether a requirement of a full license to practice is needed to continue to work in a teaching/ examining role in their institution
  • Team job planning should be done as a department to ensure roles are complementary
  • Appraisal of senior doctors should be sensitive and proportionate to their working arrangements
  • Employers should remain in contact with recently retired physicians or those not currently working.


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