The British Medical Association (BMA) has found that as many as 60% of consultants are thinking of leaving the NHS before their planned retirement age.

Even before they leave, more than a third say they intend to reduce the number of days working for the NHS by 50%, with 18% already planning to cut their commitment even further.

More than two thirds (69.7%) of those surveyed were hoping to achieve a better work-life balance, with fewer than 7% expressing interest in remaining working in the NHS after the age of 65.

The loss of such a large amount of skilled clinicians could be devastating to the health service, especially at this time considering the grand promises that have been made by the government in the newly released Long-Term Plan.

“The health service is in the throes of a severe workforce shortage, and any suggestion that skilled senior clinicians are planning to reduce or end their NHS commitments is highly concerning," said Danny Mortimer chief executive of NHS Employers, responding to the figures.

“It is therefore imperative that the NHS is able to support hospital consultants to remain in work. The investment in the Long Term Plan has to reduce the pressure on our front line teams, but we also must do more to support the better balancing of demanding work and life priorities.

“In relation to the impact of government pensions tax policy, the new ‘schemepays’ approach will help, but we need greater flexibility in the pension scheme so that staff can manage their pension growth to reflect and support their own needs and priorities.”