About one in four doctors is over 65 years old, an aging of the class that will result in a wave of around 5 retirements by 2030, warns a report on health human resources released today.
«The present decade of 2020-2030 will be marked by a high volume of retirements of doctors from the National Health Service (SNS). Around five thousand doctors are expected to retire in this period, in addition to the retirement of doctors who work exclusively in the private sector”, says the document by researchers Pedro Pita Barros and Eduardo Costa.
This report forms part of the chair in Health Economics, as part of the initiative for Social Equity, which results from a partnership between the “la Caixa” Foundation, BPI and the faculty of economics, finance and management at Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (New SBE).
The researchers also warn that the «problem of aging is asymmetrical in the national territory», with the North, Center and autonomous regions registering a «proportion of doctors aged over 65 years lower than the national average»
«In addition to the regional asymmetry and by specialties, there is a sharp worsening over time. In 1996, around 11% of physicians registered with the Ordem dos Médicos were over 65 years old. The most current data, referring to December 2021, put this proportion at 24%», says the study.
The analysis indicates that, in terms of specialties, the aging of the class is more evident in tropical medicine (88,1% of doctors over 65 years old), in stomatology (53,8%), in pediatric surgery (43,6 %), clinical pathology (43,1%), cardiothoracic surgery (42,6%) and maxillofacial surgery (40,9%).
According to the data now released, this high aging of the class «anticipates a wave of retirements» for the coming years, with an average volume of annual retirements exceeding 450 expected.
Lisbon and the North, regions with the highest number of health professionals, «will be the most affected», the report also stresses, when estimating that the 2030s will be marked by a volume of annual retirements «substantially lower».
Between 2030 and 2040, on average, less than 250 doctors will retire per year.
The document also adds that the aging rates of nurses are “substantially lower” than those of doctors, since, in 2019, less than 4% of these health professionals were over 65 years old.
“The aging of health professionals implies an adaptation of the health system. A higher proportion of aging physicians reduces the number of health professionals available to work at night or in emergencies», also warn Pedro Pita Barros and Eduardo Costa.
According to the researchers, the approaching retirement age of a large number of doctors poses a «major challenge to maintaining training capacities in the SNS».
«The timely planning of these retirements is essential to minimize disruptions in the normal functioning of health care», stresses the report, which analyzes several indicators on human resources for health between 2011 and 2022.