Patients and their records are among your main priorities when you are retiring from clinical practice.
- Arrangements will differ depending on your role and the nature of your relationship with patients.
- GPs will need to inform their Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) and may want to notify long-term patients themselves, or the practice may wish to keep patients informed - for example through the practice newsletter.
- Independent doctors should discuss ongoing care with their patients and agree on a plan for future care. If appropriate, you will need to obtain informed consent to pass information or a copy of your patients' records to the doctor who will be caring for them.
- NHS consultants should agree arrangements with their trust, but again may wish to notify long-term patients and reassure them about their long-term care.
Retention of private records
If you are retiring from independent practice, you need to consider what to do with your clinical records.
- The GMC's advice on records management and retention states that doctors should follow the guidance issued by the UK health departments, whether or not you work in the NHS.
- Different retention periods apply to different types of record. The Records Management Code of Practice (2021) provides recommended retention periods for retaining records. We advise that these should be considered as a minimum period for record retention, particularly if there has been an adverse incident or complaint relating to that patient.
- The advantage of retaining records from a medico-legal point of view needs to be balanced by the requirements of data protection law, which says you should not retain records for longer than necessary.
Contact the MDU if you have any specific concerns about retaining or destroying medical records.
Working during retirement
You may choose to take voluntary erasure from the GMC register and you can still use the title 'doctor'. Retired doctors can still perform Good Samaritan acts. The GMC advises that not having a licence shouldn't stop you from helping in emergencies - although if you aren't licensed, you will need to be clear about your GMC status.
If you wish to continue to undertake any work as a doctor you must maintain your GMC registration. This applies to medico-legal work such as writing medico-legal reports. Depending on the type of work, you may also need to retain your licence to practice (for example, if you still wish to prescribe or examine patients) and you may need CQC registration.
Treating yourself, friends and family
As long as you remain a fully registered medical practitioner with a licence to practice and no restrictions on your GMC registration, you can still prescribe after you retire. However, there are inherent ethical problems with doctors treating themselves or their families.
You should be registered with a GP outside your family, so you have access to independent, objective medical care.
If you are planning on retiring please contact our membership team who will be able to explain how this affects your membership.
This page was correct at publication on 10/08/2021. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.