Opinion Former Article

MDU figures show increase in GPs retiring earlier as indemnity costs bite

Figures from the leading medical indemnifier of UK GPs, the Medical Defence Union (MDU), show that around 40% of its GPs members are retiring before age 60.

In 2017, 39% of MDU GP members retiring did so before the age of 60, compared to 21% in 2011. The average age at which GP members retired in 2017 was 62 compared to 65 in 2011.

A recent  MDU survey of over 900 GPs found a third were thinking of considering leaving the profession or retiring over the increased costs of indemnity caused by the rising cost of compensation payments.

Dr Matthew Lee MDU professional services director said:

"These figures are really worrying. At a time when NHS general practice is under unprecedented pressure, to see GPs retiring early or considering leaving general practice altogether can only make the problem worse.

"GPs (unlike hospital doctors) must pay for their own indemnity and with medical claims inflation rising at 10% a year, this is getting prohibitively expensive and becoming a workforce problem. The cost of indemnity is hurting them and making it harder to provide services to patients.”

Government figures show there is already a shortfall in the number of GPs. The full-time equivalent GP workforce fell by 445 in the three months to December 2016*.

The government plans to introduce state-backed indemnity for primary care in England in the next 10-16 months. In response, the MDU has introduced half price subscriptions and transitional benefits of membership to help GPs stay in practice while discussions are ongoing with the government about the details of the new scheme.

Dr Lee continued:

"Crucially as well as paying for future claims, the state-backed scheme must pick up historic liabilities, as happened when NHS indemnity was introduced for hospital doctors in 1990. This will ensure a smooth transition.

“GPs should not be left paying for the current indemnity crisis which is not of their making.  While the MDU’s transitional benefits are providing a chance for GPs to stay in practice for longer, ultimately the government needs to ensure a state-backed scheme is introduced within the timescale set-out and must pick up historic liabilities.”

* General and Personal Medical Services, England December 2016, Provisional Experimental statistics, NHS Digital, 29 March 2017



The MDU is a not-for-profit organisation wholly dedicated to our members’ interests. Our team is led and staffed by doctors with real-life experience of the pressures and challenges faced in practice.

We offer our members expert guidance, personal support and robust defence in addressing medico-legal issues, complaints and claims. Our customised services range from legal assistance to indemnity to appropriate CPD.


Dawn Boyall, Laura Baker or Thenuka Mahendrarasa in the MDU’s press office

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