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Why Thousands of Midwives Are Quitting Their Jobs…Forever

Caroline Lowe, 63, from Salisbury, stopped working at the end of 2020 at the age of 62. She had worked in the tax department of a large pension organization, following a career in financial services, including 15 years in investments at Lloyds Bank. , where she had a retirement pension scheme which she could access once she reached the age of 60. Lockdown meant working from home on a laptop, when she was used to two screens and a fast computer. The work she used to finish in eight hours took her 10 and in the weeks leading up to big deadlines, she could be hunched over her laptop at 2 a.m.

“I didn’t mind the isolation, I have a good family and we used FaceTime a lot, but eye strain, headaches and frustration got me down,” she explains. The pandemic reminded her of simpler times when she was younger and her dad used to buy second-hand things and make them for Christmas presents, when they didn’t have a car and had Used to walk around town, and when going out for restaurants was a special occasion.

“I realized that I didn’t need all those things I had acquired,” she told herself. “I had become a materialist. I asked to reduce my hours, the company did not agree, so I gave my notice. I took a lump sum on a pension, paid off part of my mortgage, but kept a tiny bit until I was 70, to keep my good credit and have the ability to withdraw equity. Now I make a little over a third of what I used to make, but I can’t believe how much [much I’m saving by] not buying my morning coffee from a chain, getting cheaper broadband, not commuting… There isn’t much difference in my lifestyle except maybe I don’t go out as much for eat.

She, too, has bought a motorhome and is traveling the country – she had just returned from Norfolk Broads when we spoke and was planning a trip to Cambridge. “I’m making up for lost time – the pandemic has shown there may be no tomorrow.”

Understandably, a large number of midwives leaving the workforce at the same time poses a problem for employers, says Bev White, CEO of tech staffing firm Harvey Nash Group.

“Older workers carry the memory and the legacy of the company. You can only reach a certain level with cutting-edge technology, you also need a strong company culture”, explains- she. “Older workers are essential – the tech sector and the UK economy suffer if a cohort leaves. Younger workers simply benefit from being in meetings with older workers even if there is no direct mentorship. While companies struggle to get people back to the office, companies lack short-term memory – meaningful interactions are on hold.

This memory of the workplace is particularly important in the health service, where consultants have traditionally helped young physicians complete their training with practical guidance in the early years of their first job. With more than 30% of midwives disengaged from the health sector and a British Medical Association survey in June 2021 showing that more than half of doctors plan to retire before the age of 60, the Mass exodus of senior consultants has already precipitated a staffing crisis in private hospitals and looks set to hit the NHS hard.

In the case of doctors, a combination of Covid burnout, the resulting backlog and changes to pension tax rules which can mean in many cases that older doctors pay more tax than ‘they don’t actually win, cause an unprecedented exodus from the profession. In 2020-2021, 1,358 physicians took early retirement, with an average age of 59. This figure compares to the 401 who took early retirement in 2007-08, an increase of 239% in 13 years.

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