Exclusive: Third of GPs would not choose general practice if they started medical career now, poll shows

One in three GPs say they would not choose a career in general practice if they were starting a career in medicine today, a GPonline poll reveals.

A total of 32% of more than 400 GPs who took part in the survey said they would not choose general practice if they started a medical career today.

Among 203 respondents who are currently GP partners, 37% said they would not choose careers in general practice at all if they were starting a medical career now.

Just 16% of existing partners said they would choose to take on the role full-time now, and a further 21% said they would opt for part-time partnership roles. The remaining partners who took part in the survey said they would now opt for salaried or locum roles.

GP partnerships

Among all GP respondents, just 12% said they would choose to be full-time partners, with a further 14% saying they would choose a part-time partnership role.

The most popular response after not opting for general practice was a part-time salaried role - 16% of GPs who took part in the survey said they would choose this option if starting in medicine now.

A further 7% said they would opt for a full-time salaried role, while 8% said they would choose a full-time locum role and 11% said they would work as a part-time locum.

The findings confirm a growing crisis of morale in the profession. GPonline reported last month on a survey by our sister website Medeconomics that revealed an exodus from GP partnership roles in the past 12 months.

GP workload

At the time, GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey warned that the 'unsustainable and damaging workload pressure that many GPs are experiencing' was forcing many out of the profession or into locum and part-time roles.

The GPonline findings come as the NHS struggles to fill GP training posts. One in five available posts for 2015 remained vacant after two recruitment rounds, and a third round of recruitment is underway.

More than 650 applications are understood to have been received for the third recruitment round, up 600% compared with the same phase last year.

The government has said it will meet its target of training or retaining an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020. A spokeswoman said last month: 'We will deliver an estimated 5,000 more doctors in general practice by 2020 as part of a 10,000-strong boost to primary and community care staff.

'GPs tell us these other healthcare workers are invaluable; reducing pressure and freeing them up to spend more time with patients.'

GPonline reported last week that trainees and 1,000 existing GPs would count towards the 5,000-GP target.

Many GPs who responded to the poll blamed a mix of stress, workload and underfunding for low morale.

GP responses

One respondent said: 'Full-time work is too overwhelming - would soon be burnt out. If it was economically viable to be a partner, then that would be the best option, but at the moment the government is making this impossible.'

Another GP said: My daughter is a third year medical student. If she decided she wanted to be a UK GP I would do all in my power to dissuade her.'

One GP said: 'Need a portfolio career otherwise it is now too stressful a job to do full-time. Demands are so high and the rewards so low.'

Other GPs said they might emigrate or choose different professions. 'If I was a younger GP I would emigrate,' said one respondent. 'I would encourage new GPs to leave - I do not like the way primary care is going.'

Another said: 'If I was starting again I probably wouldn't do medicine at all,' while another respondent said: 'I am not sure I would choose this career now if I was starting over; would be more likely to go for psychiatry or international development.'

Nonetheless, some respondents also said they would not switch. One full-time partner who responded said this role was 'still the best option in my mind'.

Another said: 'I am very happy at work, I have not worked nights or weekends for years. I am not surprised then that my work is more intensive during the week.'

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