GPs forced out of profession by workload and NHS reorganisation, study shows

The RCGP has called for non-urgent red tape and bureaucracy to be cut from general practice after a study showed it was driving GPs out of the profession.

Dr Tim Ballard: GPs facing unbearable pressure
Dr Tim Ballard: GPs facing unbearable pressure

The BJGP analysis of what causes GPs to quit NHS general practice found a range of explanations including organisational changes to the role, workload, negative media portrayal and a lack of support in the workplace.

The study, which involved a survey and qualitative interviews with GPs under 50 who had left the English medical performers list between 2009 and 2014, found:

  • 78.9% cited unhappiness with day-to-day life as a GP.
  • 52.1% disliked the ‘target-driven’ approach to patient care.
  • 83.8% said workload pressure featured in their decision.
  • 57% highlighted concerns about media attacks on the medical profession.
  • 61% said unhappiness with their professional culture was important.
  • 44% highlighted the feeling of a loss of autonomy and professional control.

The study’s authors said: ‘The early loss of GPs causes a considerable drain on NHS resources. To improve retention of GPs in practice, NHS leaders need both to minimise the pace of administrative change and to reduce the amount of time spent by GPs on work that is not face-to-face patient care.’

GP red tape

RCGP vice chairman Dr Tim Ballard said: ‘The amount of red tape and bureaucracy that GPs and our teams are facing is overwhelming, and as this research shows, it is driving family doctors to leave our profession at a time when we should be doing everything possible to retain them.

‘With more and more of our working hours being taken up with form-filling, ticking boxes and preparing for CQC practice inspections, we are drowning in red tape and this only serves to keep us away from delivering frontline patient care, which is why we become doctors in the first place.

He added: ‘We know that when GPs and our teams are given the resources, time and freedom to do our jobs properly, then general practice in the UK is an exciting, diverse and fulfilling career. We need to make general practice an attractive option for medical students, but also a profession that doctors want to remain in for many years – and a good starting point would be to cut a lot of the non-urgent paperwork and red tape that is keeping us from doing our real job; providing high quality, safe patient care.’

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