Senior active and retired doctors are an underutilised asset in advancing the health of the Australian community

Who are Senior Active Doctors?

There is no clear age basis for the transition into occasional practice. Doctors over age 55 may be considered senior in the sense of having achieved a high level of medical expertise and practice, however life events can occur at any time which preclude doctors from continuing in their practices, and transitions into semi-retirement can occur at any stage of a doctor’s career. This includes doctors who for whatever reason (e.g., childrearing, parent care, illness) have chosen to reduce their practice but for whom maintaining full registration is difficult given current recency of practice and CPD requirements.

As Pesce (AMA President, 2011) stated:

“There are many reasons why doctors of any age, at any time in their lives, may choose to undertake a limited scope of practice.  The challenge for the profession now is to be clear about what those limited scopes of practice might be, and what the appropriate registration requirements should be in terms of continuing professional development and medical indemnity insurance…” 

Senior Active Doctors elsewhere.

“Upon recommendation from the Council on Medical Education, the American Medical Association developed a licensure relief model for retired physicians working in free clinics. The model recommends that states adopt legislation which would exempt retired physicians practicing in free clinics from the licensing board registration fee.” (https://www.ama-assn.org/member-groups-sections/senior-physicians/about-senior-physicians-section-sps)


Many states now have provisions for retired doctors:

–      to practice in a voluntary capacity on a pro bono basis
–      offering services through charities and agencies
–      to benefit indigent and uninsured patients
–      and during times of emergency.
Registration fees can be exempted and continuing education hours are often reduced.


 The American Medical Association (AMA) has a long-standing Senior Physicians Section. All AMA members 65 and over have automatic membership of the section. Coming up to their latest annual meeting they have called for member resolutions in 5 key areas:

–      Practice patterns and transitioning out of practice.  Senior physicians should stay in practice as long as they have the desire and competency to do so, in order to care for an expanding patient population.  How can senior physicians be an ongoing resource, thereby using their talents and experience?
–      Senior physicians’ roles in supplementing or filling gaps in community health needs.  How can senior physicians impact health concerns or the delivery of health services for the medically underserved or those suffering chronic diseases?
–      Overcoming barriers to adopting and implementing technology.  What kind of improvements can be made to address record keeping, administrative processes, or care coordination to help physicians as they age?
–      Roles in medical education.  How can senior physicians play a greater role in the medical education process?  Are there volunteer opportunities such as preceptors, medical student or undergraduate advisors?
–      Licensure for “partial” or reduced scope of practice.  How can limited license status be developed for senior physicians when they are no longer in full-time practice?

The UK national system is similar to that in Australia – full registration or nothing - but watch this space. In recent years, a Retired Members Committee has been established within the British Medical Association (BMA) and at the 2019 Annual Representative Meeting (cf AMA Nat Conf) of the Representative Body (cf AMA Delegates) the committee put forward the following motion which was unanimously carried:


 “That this meeting calls on the General Medical Council to change its retiral, revalidation and re-entry processes in order to retain senior members of the profession to contribute to clinical services, teaching and research.


 Senior Active and Retired Doctors are an underutilised asset.

ASADA strongly believes that senior active and retired doctors are an underutilised asset in advancing the health of the Australian community. They could:

■      provide a valuable resource in the event of national emergencies such as bushfires, terrorism and pandemics,

■      assist in vaccination of the population,

■      monitor chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes through pharmacies or other agencies,

■      assist in under staffed rural practices

■      provide pro bono/volunteer services (as retired lawyers currently do with free practicing certificates)

■      and much, much more.