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31.05.18

Two in five GPs in England to leave profession within five years, DHSC survey shows

Two in every five GPs plan to quit within the next five years—the highest figure ever recorded by a government-backed survey.

Over 92% said they faced high or considerable pressure from increasing workloads, while 85.3% of respondents reported a high or considerable pressure from having ‘insufficient time to do justice to the job.’ Eight out of 10 GPs felt systematic changes to meet requirements from external bodies were also factors in the growing levels of stress of the job.

GPs face longer working hours with larger workloads, with one in five working an eye-watering 60+ hours per week. More than nine out of 10 GPs reported experiencing ‘considerable or high pressure’ environments due to the increasing workloads.

The survey—conducted by Checkland and Manchester University’s Centre for Health Economics, and commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care— found that 39% were likely to leave direct patient care by 2022. This is almost double the proportion who planned to do so in 2005.

Professor Kath Checkland, who co-authored the study, said: “The all-time-high figure of 39% of GPs who say they intend to quit within five years is particularly worrying in terms of the possible implications it might have on recruitment, retention and patient care.”

More than 60% of GPs over 50 years old planned to quit within five years, up 61% from two years earlier.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said it was “incredibly worrying” that so many GPs aim to leave the profession, but argued that it was not surprising due to intense pressures family doctors are facing.

‘We’re trying to do more and more with less and less’

“Pressures in general practice have reached an all-time high; our workload has escalated by at least 16% over the last seven years, but the share of the NHS budget general practice receives is less than it was a decade ago, GP numbers are actually falling, and many hard-working GPs are simply burnt-out and exhausted,” said Stokes-Lampard.

“We’re trying to do more and more on less and less, and there is a limit beyond which we can no longer guarantee that we are practising safely.”

This news comes after over one million patients had to find new family doctors over the past five years due to increasing practice closures in new findings yesterday. Earlier this month continuity of care levels tumbled by 30% as GPs cite “intense pressures,” largely due to a significant lack of funding from central government.

“While recruiting more doctors is an obvious solution,” added Stokes-Lampard, “more work is needed to retain existing GPs, who are as valuable to trainees as they are to their patients, in the profession and the key to this is to tackle workload in general practice.”

Earlier this week NHS England announced it would introduce a £10m fund in an effort to prevent GPs from leaving the profession. In March, Theresa May pledged to publish a ‘sustainable long-term plan’ for the NHS this year.

Stokes-Lampard commented: “Being a GP can be the best job in the world, but only when it's properly resourced. That’s why we urgently need to see NHS England’s GP Forward View, which promises an extra £2.4bn a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs by 2020, delivered, in full.”

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Image credit: SolStock Images

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