Exclusive: One in eight trainee GPs plan to work overseas

One in eight final-year trainee GPs plan to leave the country within the next 12 months, an LMC poll has revealed.

Dr Nigel Watson: warning over future GP workforce (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Nigel Watson: warning over future GP workforce (Photo: JH Lancy)

Just 15% of trainee GPs were interested in becoming a partner at a practice in the current climate, with 77% saying salaried or locum work was their preferred option.

A staggering 83% of comments from trainees about general practice were negative, the poll by Wessex LMCs found, with GP trainees citing fears about burnout due to heavy workload.

Top themes from the poll when trainees were asked how the GP recruitment crisis could be tackled were:

  • Stopping the constant negative media and government attention.

  • Secondary care colleagues being more understanding and respectful.

  • More funding for general practice and better working conditions.

  • More emphasis on general practice and its advantages in medical school.

  • More foundation placements in general practice.

Wessex LMCs chief executive Dr Nigel Watson told GP it was vital for the NHS to recognise the scale of the general practice recruitment crisis and take action.

Concern about full-time GP roles

He said the finding that many GP trainees planned to move abroad reflected deep concerns about taking on full-time general practice roles in the current environment.

‘I think this is about UK graduates who spend time in general practice and say: "At this stage in my career I don’t want to take on general practice full time".

‘So they will go to Australia and come back when things are better.’

The disinterest in partnerships was ‘horrendous’ news for the profession, Dr Watson warned.

‘If you go back 25 years everybody was looking for a partnership.

‘If only 15% are looking for partnerships now, that is pretty horrendous with the numbers leaving the profession – they will not fill the gaps left by people taking early retirement or quitting.’

Dr Watson said that a finding that 47% of GP trainees would ‘consider partnership as their preferred option’ in five years’ time offered ‘some comfort’.

Make general practice attractive

‘But it puts the pressure on the GPC and the government to make general practice attractive – to make it a career choice they want to take,’ he warned.

The poll also found that a quarter of respondents intended to take a career break out of general practice for more than two years at some stage.

Huge numbers of people now leave the profession at age 35, Dr Watson said.

He said juggling family life and a career in general practice was becoming more difficult because of rising workload.

‘General practice can’t absorb more workload without more people on the ground,’ Dr Watson warned. ‘If people training for the profession aren’t going to come in to replace the existing workforce, we need to find alternatives.’

He suggested looking at how wider practice teams could be expanded with support from specialists working in primary care settings.

‘We need to get solutions and deliver them. We can’t continue to fiddle while general practice is on a burning platform.’

More than 2,000 GP trainees responded to the poll in total, with around 700 in the cohort due to qualify this summer.

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