One in eight GP trainees do not plan to work in general practice, BMA poll shows

Some 13% of GP trainees say they do not intend to work in general practice after qualifying, according to a BMA poll.

Sign outside BMA House
Photo: Malcolm Case-Green

Presenting the results of the survey to the UK LMCs conference on 11 May, BMA GP trainee subcommittee chair Dr Euan Strachan-Orr said that the figure equated to a 'loss of 433 potential GPs in England alone year on year, before we even start working'.

The poll of 626 trainees from across the UK also found that GP trainees experienced worrying levels of bullying, sexism and racism. Some 36% of trainees reported bullying at GP practices, 29% reported sexism and 20% said they had experienced racism in their GP training posts.

Dr Strachan-Orr said the results were 'truly disgraceful and unacceptable' and suggested they may even underestimate the scale of the problem because it was unclear if all trainees reported their concerns. He said that a 'radical review of training' was required to better support GPs in these situations and 'stamp out these unacceptable events'.

The survey found that 75% of GP trainees had experienced symptoms of burnout, stress, depression or anxiety during their training, with 42% saying they were unable to take a break from work during the day.

GP trainees

As a result, Dr Strachan-Orr said that most trainees wanted to develop flexible careers. The poll found 94% wanted to work flexibly, with 74% saying this was to support their physical or mental health.

The majority (55%) said they intended to work as a salaried doctor after qualifying, while 27% said they would work as a locum GP. Only 23% said they planned to be a partner at any point in their career.

Dr Strachan-Orr said the most worrying finding was that 13% of current trainees said they did not plan to work as a GP in the future.

'Pressure and stress of working late, working through lunch, taking work home is the reality we see as trainees. Is this why 13% are walking away from the profession before we even start?' he told the conference.

'Extrapolated that represents a loss of 433 potential GPs in England alone year on year before we even start working. These are GPs our patients could be seeing. Our system is failing if this is an end product of our training system.'

The poll also found that 32% of GPs planned to work six sessions a week in a practice after qualifying, 21% said they would work five sessions and 20% said four. Only 16% said that they would work seven sessions or more and just 6% said that they would be a full-time GP.

GP career options

'Six clinical sessions are what GP trainees told us they want to work post CCT. This is considered part time now,' Dr Strachan-Orr said. 'But what is considered part time now is equivalent to what was considered full-time working years ago.'

He added that there was clearly a shift in how future GPs wanted to work. 'Is more flexibility why salaried is now proving the most popular post-CCT career choice? Are we as trainees being trained adequately in the non clinical aspects of GP to help guide post-qualification careers?

'How can we make partnerships more attractive and support the view this conference expressed yesterday that partnership is the bedrock of general practice, alongside improving other career GP choices? These are the questions we need to consider as a profession to find security and stability for the future of our profession.'

Dr Strachan-Orr also said that visa challenges facing international medical graduates (IMGs) in GP training, were 'not helping' the situation. On 10 May the conference voted in support of a motion calling for IMGs who train as GPs in the UK to be supported to obtain visas after they qualify.

Current rules mean that IMG trainees do not have leave to remain in the UK after qualifying and can only stay if they find a post in a practice that is set up as a Tier 2 sponsor.

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