Mears et al (Psychiatric Bulletin, April 2004, 28, 130-132) describe Mental Health Officer status as a ‘perverse incentive’. This implies disapproval of the only perquisite ever to have been enjoyed by consultant psychiatrists and other disciplines working in mental health. It may well be that the recruitment into our specialty was enhanced by Mental Health Officer status opportunities, sadly removed, I understand, from new entrants several years ago.
My own Mental Health Officer status was removed without my knowledge when I became an academic. Although it has now been reinstated, the possibility of being obliged to work full-time for an extra 5 years for financial reasons was a most worrying and unattractive one.
However, I am sure that Mears et al have got it right when they say that the reasons why consultants retire early are complex, multidimensional and highly individual. In my own case, the youngest of my three children will only be 12 years old when I am 55, and after having missed out on so much of my children’s early years it would be quite nice to spend more time with them when they are older. Like most of the consultants participating in Mears et al’s survey, the most attractive prospect is to take early retirement but continue to work part-time in some other capacity. It is difficult to envisage any incentive that could overcome my desire to spend more time with my family, apart from reduced working hours for what is in effect the same pay, which is of course what you end up with by taking early retirement and then working part-time.
Perhaps an investment in allowing older consultants to reduce their hours while maintaining their salary would be worthwhile in terms of both retention of older consultants and in attracting new graduates to our specialty. However I suspect that there are many consultant posts in psychiatry, my own included, which could not be feasible on a part-time basis.
- © 2004 Royal College of Psychiatrists