The latest ‘GP Worklife’ study has lifted the lid on an impending crisis as over a third of doctors say they intend to leave in the next 5 years due to intense workload, increased demands from patients and insufficient time to meet the needs of the role.
For a number of years doctor and patient organisations have warned of the strain on doctors. Now post-pandemic Britain is seeing an acceleration of the crisis as working conditions and job satisfaction reach new depths, causing more GPs to consider leaving the profession – especially those more experienced doctors for whom an ‘early retirement’ or late life career change is an attractive prospect.
The GP Worklife study gathered responses from over 2,000 General Practitioners working in England. The results revealed:
- 60% of GPs over 50 plan to leave by 2026
- 16% of GPs under 50 already planning to leave
- 58% of GPs already work 3 day weeks
Key issues cited included:
- Long working hours
- Increasing workloads and pressure
- Demanding patients
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said:
“General practice was under considerable strain before the pandemic, but the crisis has exacerbated this. These findings, which reflect those of surveys we have conducted of members, show a profession working under intense workload and workforce pressures, doing their best for patients in the most difficult of circumstances.
“It’s concerning to see any GP leaving the profession earlier than they planned, particularly in such high numbers, but it’s especially worrying to see so many family doctors planning to leave relatively early in their careers.
“This should be a wake-up call that we need to see robust plans implemented to retain highly-trained, experienced GPs in the workforce – and key to this will be tackling workload.
“GPs and their teams are currently working to their limits. Over the last six months, the numbers of appointments delivered in general practice every month has exceeded pre-pandemic levels – but numbers of fully-qualified, full-time equivalent GPs are falling. GPs want to be able to provide good, safe and appropriate care for patients – that’s why we become GPs – but due to workload and workforce pressures this is becoming increasingly difficult, it is taking its toll on GPs’ health, and they are making the decision to leave the profession earlier than planned as a result.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said:
“We are working to support and grow the general practice workforce, address the reasons why doctors leave the profession, and encourage them to return to practice.
“In December 2021 there were over 1,600 more doctors working in general practice compared to 2019 and a record-breaking number started training as GPs last year.
“We have invested £520 million to expand GP capacity during the pandemic, on top of £1.5 billion until 2024, and we are making 4,000 GP training places available each year, to help create an extra 50 million appointments annually.”
The question is, will that be enough to balance the numbers. It takes around 11 years to qualify as a GP (a 6 year medical degree, 2 year foundation programme plus 3 year speciality GP training) and it is not uncommon to take longer.
In the short term, many patients are still struggling to access care from their local doctor and the situation is likely to get worse. Therefore it’s vital that the government succeeds in persuading more GPs to stay in the role and return to practice.
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