More than half of GPs in England have considered quitting because of work-related stress, a survey has found.
The survey found that just 43 per cent of GPs had given no thought to leaving direct patient care within the next five years. Over three-quarters (76 per cent) of GPs over 50 have considered leaving the profession, with 31 per cent rating their chances of quitting as 'high'.
Even among GPs aged under 50, 45 per cent say they have considered their position.
GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said he was unsurprised by the results: 'I can see how being subjected to daily vilification in the newspapers and having a difficult relationship with your primary care organisation (PCO) would make you feel you did not enjoy your job.'
But he was pleased that job satisfaction remained higher than before the new GMS contract was introduced.
The survey of 1,300 GPs, conducted last year, was the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre's fifth investigation of morale in general practice.
It found that GPs' working lives had 'improved since the introduction of the new GMS contract', but had 'drifted below the peak' reported a year after the deal took effect.
On a seven-point scale, overall job satisfaction declined significantly, from 5.2 in 2005 to 4.7 in 2008. Satisfaction with pay and working hours - up an hour a week since 2005 - fell furthest.
More than 70 per cent of GPs felt under pressure because of increased workload, paperwork or PCO-imposed changes.
The biggest factors behind rising stress levels since 2005 included negative media coverage, longer hours and 'unrealistically high expectation'. The only area of life to have become easier is finding a locum.
However, more GPs reported having choice in what to do at work, and a variety of interesting work to do, than in 2005.
Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, credited much of the bad feeling to the decline in autonomy in general practice, brought about by innovations such as the QOF and the creation of NICE.
He added that the financial crisis meant 'the chances are GPs will have to extend our role'. Greater responsibility could give GPs a greater sense of autonomy, he said.
76% of GPs over 50 years old have considered quitting
45% of GPs aged under 50 have considered quitting
70% of GPs feel under pressure from workload, paperwork and changes imposed by their primary care organisation
Overall job satisfaction fell between 2005 and 2008