A third of GPs considering retirement in next five years – BMA

A third of GPs are considering retirement in the next five years because of their excessive workloads, un-resourced work and not being able to spend enough time with patients, a BMA survey has indicated. 

The study of 15,500 GPs also suggested that 30% of full-time doctors are considering going part-time. 

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA GPs committee, said the survey highlights the “stark reality” of recruitment and retention in general practice. 

This was highlighted by the fact that one in five GP trainees hope to move abroad before 2020. More than two-thirds of GPs (68%) say they experience a significant amount of (manageable) work-related stress. However, one in six feel their stress is unmanageable. 

Dr Nagpaul said the results call into question the feasibility of recent general election pledges by many of the main political parties for additional GPs. He added that “rather than playing a numbers game” politicians should focus on addressing the pressures facing GP services. 

The three main political parties have, however, responded by mainly citing numbers. Labour’s shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne MP said the party has pledged to hire 8,000 GPs extra by 2020, paid for from its planned £2.5bn a year Time to Care fund. 

The Conservatives said they have pledged an extra £8bn a year by 2020 to the NHS, as recommended by NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, which will “ensure a new deal for general practice including better investment and the recruitment of an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020”. Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb also cited a similar plan. 

Responding to the results, Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “These findings confirm what the College has been saying for some time about the chronic lack of family doctors across the country, and the devastating impact this could have on the future of general practice, the wider NHS, and most importantly, our patients. 

“Highly trained and experienced GPs are leaving the profession in growing numbers because of the intense and increasing pressures that we are facing, and not enough medical students are entering general practice to replace them. This is a genuine danger to patient safety – and to the wellbeing of hardworking family doctors and our teams.” 

She highlighted that it costs £247,000 to put a family doctor through post-graduate training, so more must be done to “recruit, retain, and return” as many GPs to frontline patient care in the UK as possible.

“We need to implement robust plans to turn the tide, such as our joint 10-point plan, launched earlier this year with NHS England, Health Education England, and the BMA,” added Dr Baker. “This includes introducing incentives for existing family doctors to stay in the profession as long as possible, and for medical students to consider general practice as a career.” 

Despite the pressures on general practice, just under half of respondents to the survey said they would recommend a career as a GP, but a third (35%) would not advocate working in general practice. 

The survey was conducted by ICM, a member of the British Polling Council. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Roger H   15/04/2015 at 11:56

This is all a product of the so called new contracts introduced by Labour

Chris H   15/04/2015 at 12:28

Clearly it isn't a matter of throwing money at the problem because that has been tried without success. GP practices are privately run so could it be that these practices are not investing in the infrastructure (especially back up staff) that will ease the pressure on them? When I think back to the late 1950s and 1960s when you waited in GP surgeries on an ad hoc basis and the GPs stayed until the last patient had been seen before going out to do their home visits, plus being on a rota for evening and weekend calls, I do wonder if the pendulum has swung the other way. Family GPs were respected and highly valued within communities then. How do we get to a place where this matters to the GPs of the future whilst being fair to them and their families? What do others think? Has society changed so much that we no longer have (or rate) such values?

Steve Mann   15/04/2015 at 15:19

I am surprised anybody is surprised at this.

Philip C   16/04/2015 at 12:28

It can't be as simple as Roger H suggests, as that notorious contract change under Labour had GPs doing less work (e.g. no routine out of hours), not more. If they really are under so much pressure, something else must have changed in the meantime. Chris H is right about the huge social changes since the 60's, as all highly paid professionals now expect much more leisure/family time. The huge problem that most politicians are reluctant to talk about (because it relates to immigration) is the rapidly growing population and this must be the biggest single reason why it now takes much longer just to get in to see your GP. This is essentially a demand problem (like the problems in the rest of the NHS) and 'chucking' x billion at it won’t solve it. Under this model, the NHS will just consume an ever-increasing proportion of public spending (i.e. your taxes) and an x billion annual increase will never be enough. Finally, the word 'retirement' can be a bit misleading in the NHS. For example, a third of the GPs in my local (large) practice have recently 'retired' (i.e. taken their pension) at 60, but returned to work on more or less on the same basis. I know they won't stay long term, but may well carry on for another 5 years.

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