Third of trainee GPs not planning to work in NHS general practice

Only two-thirds of trainee GPs are planning to go on to work in general practice in the NHS, a new study has today warned.

The research carried out by the University of Warwick surveyed 178 GP trainees in the West Midlands who were within three months of receiving their certificate of completion of training, and found that perceptions of work-life balance and low morale during training was leading many prospective GPs away from the NHS.

Of the GPs who said they would stay in the NHS, most proposed working as a locum or a salaried GP rather than entering a GP partnership.

Respondents added that the quality of general practice experience during their training also had an effect on their personal career plans.

Around two-thirds (62.8%) of the doctors surveyed said they expected to be working in six months as a salaried locum or other non-principal NHS GP, dropping to a third (33.9%) at five years.

The proportion expecting to become a GP principal increased from less than 5% at six months to just over a third (33.9%) at five years.

More than half (56.4%) also said that the current political and media comment around general practice was having a negative influence on their career intentions.

Professor Jeremy Dale from the University of Warwick Medical School, who lead the research, said that his study had highlighted a number of potentially modifiable factors related to GP training programmes that are detrimentally influencing the career plans of newly-trained GPs.

“Many of these relate to how general practice had been experienced across undergraduate, foundation and vocational training, and in particular perceptions about workload pressure and morale within practice placements,” he stated. 

“The negative portrayal of general practice by politicians and the media was experienced as having had a detrimental effect on personal career intentions.”

Prof Dale added that sociodemographic factors, such as age, gender, and having children, influenced career plans, indicating a need for these to be considered within workforce planning.

“A sizeable proportion of individuals did not describe their future career plans, perhaps expressing ambiguity about career direction,” he concluded.

Research ‘incredibly concerning’

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) said the research confirms issues raised by the organisation in the past, and that it was “incredibly concerning” for patients and the future of general practice.

“We really do need all the family doctors we can get – thousands more than we currently have, and of all ‘types’ be they partners, salaried or locum GPs – so the prospect of losing new GPs so early in their careers could be disastrous for the NHS,” said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP. 

“Unfortunately, these findings are a clear indication that trainees are being put off from a career in general practice because they are seeing first-hand the intense resource and workload pressures GPs and our teams are facing across the country.”

Prof Stokes Lampard also explained that workload in general practice had risen 16% over the last seven years, but resources for the profession had declined, and the workforce had not risen at pace.

“It’s a massive shame because if properly resourced – with adequate investment and workforce –being a GP can be the best job in the world, with lots of variety and numerous career opportunities,” she added.  

“We urgently need to turn general practice around and make it the attractive career option that it once was – not just as a profession that trainees want to enter, but as a profession that they want to work in for years to come.

“We need the pledges made in the GP Forward View, including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice, 5,000 more full-time equivalent GPs, and 5,000 more members of the wider practice team, to be delivered in full and as a matter of urgency, so that we can deliver the care our patients need and deserve, now and in the future.”

Top Image: Anthony Devlin

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