More than 40% of GPs plan to quit in next five years

More than 40% of GPs plan to leave general practice within the next five years - a sharp rise compared with half a decade ago, according to a survey by academics.

GPs planning to leave the profession (Photo: iStock.com/bernie_photo)
GPs planning to leave the profession (Photo: iStock.com/bernie_photo)

A University of Warwick survey of 929 GPs published today reveals that 42.1% plan to leave the profession within the next five years - up from 31.8% in a similar poll carried out in 2014.

Researchers behind the findings warned of a 'worsening crisis in general practice'. GP leaders said the findings were 'no surprise', calling for urgent action to tackle unmanageable workloads and 'intense strain'.

The survey - carried out in Wessex - found that workload was the most significant factor behind GPs' intention to quit the profession, with 51% reporting that they were working longer hours than in 2014. Time wasted on administration and bureaucratic tasks was another key issue highlighted.

GP workload

The researchers warned that an increasingly complex, ageing population, a workforce in decline and cuts to community and social care services had combined to leave GPs feeling increasingly demoralised and looking to reduce their working hours or retire. 

Lead author Professor Jeremy Dale, from Warwick Medical School, said: 'GP morale and job satisfaction has been deteriorating for many years, and we have known that this is leading to earlier burnout with GPs retiring or leaving the profession early.

'What this survey indicates is that this is continuing and growing despite a number of NHS measures and initiatives that had been put in place to address this over the last few years.'

The survey was conducted at the end of 2017 - before the announcement of NHS long-term plan investment and the five-year contract set to boost GP funding from April.

NHS long-term plan

Professor Dale said: 'Views from our survey would suggest that many of the changes in the long-term plan, such as greater funding for general practice, increasing the GP workforce, and increasing clinical and support staff in general practice, are desperately needed. But in the context of low and worsening morale and job satisfaction, the question is can these be introduced quickly enough now to stem the flow of GPs who are bringing forward their plans to leave the NHS.'

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'GPs are under intense strain – our workload has escalated in recent years, both in terms of volume and complexity, but we have fewer GPs than we did two years ago.

'We now have more GPs in training than ever before - but when more family doctors are leaving the profession than entering it we are fighting a losing battle.'

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey, said: 'This is yet another worrying report about the state of the GP workforce crisis and these findings are consistent with other surveys which give rise to growing concerns for practices and their patients.

'Almost one in every two GPs are over the age of 45. The medical workforce is ageing, and many experienced older doctors are finding that working in today’s NHS is too taxing on their work-life balance and can have a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing, causing some to seek early retirement. It comes as no surprise that many want to quit within the next five years, and now is a critical time to address the underlying issues that are causing GPs to want to leave the profession.'

An NHS England spokesperson said: 'The NHS is offering financial and educational support to encourage GPs to stay, there are more GPs in training than ever before and – as set out in the long-term plan – the NHS is funding an army of 20,000 more staff to help GP practices building on the 5,000 extra practice staff working with GPs over the past four years.'

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