Practice manager's extraordinary poll reveals one in 10 GPs plan to emigrate

An Oxfordshire practice manager has called for an independent commission into the state of primary care after conducting a poll that revealed 'chilling' findings about crumbling GP morale.

Andrew McHugh: call for independent commission into state of primary care
Andrew McHugh: call for independent commission into state of primary care

More than half of around 2,750 GP and practice managers who responded to a poll by Banbury practice manager Andrew McHugh said they were not confident their practice would still exist in five years’ time.

An overwhelming 96% said their practice faced ‘ever-increasing and unsustainable workload’ and 73% reported one GP or more at their practice suffering ‘burnout’ due to unmanageable pressure.

A staggering 11% said they planned to emigrate within five years – and many of these were in the age range 35-44.

Three quarters of respondents would back dropping the avoidable admissions DES for 2014/15 to ease pressure on practices, the poll found.

Mr McHugh told GP he carried out the poll after his practice struggled to recruit a salaried GP in 2013 – just one ‘credible candidate’ came forward despite two adverts.

Wake up to crisis

He warned that politicians urgently need to wake up to the emerging crisis in general practice.

Findings from the poll add to growing evidence of the unsustainable pressure on the profession.

GP magazine reported earlier this month that a third of practices had one or more unfilled GP posts, with many vacant for more than a year.

A poll by the BMA earlier this year revealed nearly 60% of GPs are considering early retirement because intolerable workload has left the morale of the profession in tatters.

Mr McHugh told GP: ‘The whole purpose behind this is to try to get the message to policymakers that there is a crisis developing and that it needs to be addressed.

Independent commission on primary care

‘We need an independent commission into the state of primary care, particularly to look at general practice and district nursing.’

Dr Tim Cherry, a partner at the Horsefair Surgery where Mr McHugh works, said the more than 26,000 words of comment from respondents to the poll reflected GPs’ despair.

‘People are fed up – coming to work at 7am, leaving at 8pm at night to go home, logging on from home to finish paperwork and then picking up the Daily Mail to read that they are idle, lazy and overpaid,’ he said.

Dr Cherry and Mr McHugh said the failure to recruit new GPs to the profession had left a dwindling number of the profession facing intolerable pressure.

‘The people remaining are having to work harder and harder with less and less. It is no surprise people are saying "I’m going to go early",’ said Mr McHugh.

‘11% say they will emigrate within the next five years – that’s really chilling. And the group that are going to emigrate was primarily in the age group 35 to 44.’

Mr McHugh now plans to contact every MP in England to highlight the pressure on general practice and to urge them to table questions in the House of Commons.

Full poll findings:

  • 73% report that one or more GPs in their practice is suffering ‘burnout’ due to increasing and unsustainable pressure of work.

  • 58% of GPs indicate that they will either retire or take a career break within the next five years with a mode age band of 45 – 54.

  • 11% of GPs indicate that they intend to emigrate within the next five years with a mode age band of 35 – 44.

  • 96% feel their practice is experiencing an ever-increasing and unsustainable workload

  • 54% of respondents are not confident their practice will exist in five years’ time.

  • 19% of respondents are confident their practice will exist in 10 years’ time.

  • 66% of GPs indicate that, in the event of the demise of the partnership model of general practice, they would be unwilling to work for a private provider.

  • 72% feel that general practice needs to attract more doctors willing and able to work full-time.

  • 50% feel that the partnership model of general practice is becoming unsustainable for the future.

  • 56% report that it is not easy to recruit new GP partners whilst only 9% of respondents report that it is easy to recruit new GP partners.

  • 48% report that it is not easy to recruit new salaried GPs whereas only 14% report that it is easy to recruit new salaried GPs.

  • 51% report that it is not easy to recruit locum GPs whilst only 18% report that it is easy to recruit locum GPs.

  • 64% feel that their referral rate is likely to increase in order to accommodate the increased workload from secondary care.

  • 42% would feel comfortable rejecting work from secondary and community care in the event of being unable to recruit sufficient doctors and practice nurses to replace those retiring. 40% report would feel uncomfortable with this proposition.

  • 75% of respondents would support asking the health secretary to suspend contract management on the avoidable admissions DES.

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