Two in five GPs set to quit in next five years, study finds

GP leaders have warned of an 'enormous crisis' after 40% of GPs in south west England said they would quit in the next five years.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni: 'Many GPs are voting with their feet' (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni: 'Many GPs are voting with their feet' (Photo: JH Lancy)

Researchers from Exeter University also found that 70% of GPs in the region intend to reduce their patient contact time.

The findings come after official figures last month showed GP numbers fell by 445 in the last quarter of 2016 despite government and NHS England’s ambition to increase the workforce by 5,000 by 2021.

Academics from Exeter medical school received responses from more than 2,000 GPs for their study published today by BMJ Open.

More than half of GPs surveyed reported low morale, with this group particularly likely to say they intend leaving the profession. Researchers said their findings show the magnitude of the potential GP shortage crisis facing the region.

Lead researcher and GP Professor John Campbell called for an end to ‘sticking plaster solutions’ and for robust action to avert the national crisis

‘Our findings show an even bleaker outlook than expected for GP cover, even in an area which is often considered desirable and which has many rural communities,' he said. ‘If GPs have similar intentions to leave or reduce their hours in other regions, as many are reporting, the country needs to take robust action more swiftly and urgently than previously thought.’

'Enormous crisis'

GPC workforce committee chair Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said the study demonstrated the ‘enormous crisis facing general practice’ struggling with rising demand, stagnating budgets and staff shortages.

‘The number of full time GPs is falling as many decide to leave the profession or retire earlier,' he added. ‘Many GPs are voting with their feet because of the daily struggle of trying to provide enough appointments to patients without the resources or support they need. Given the uncertainty of whether the UK’s departure from the European Union will result in more overseas doctors leaving the NHS, this shortage could well get even worse in the years to come.’

Dr Kasaraneni called on the government to implement a long-term, well-funded plan to ensure more GPs are available to treat patients.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'Despite successful efforts to recruit more family doctors, and make it easier for people to return to practice after a career break or period working abroad, we are still haemorrhaging highly-trained, experienced GPs at an alarming rate.

She added: 'General practice is currently facing intense workload and resource pressures – these figures show it is severely impacting our workforce, and we fear they are indicative of the situation right across the UK.

'The future of the NHS relies on having a robust general practice service, with enough GPs to deliver the safe care and services our patients need. GPs and our teams make the vast majority of NHS patient contacts and in doing so we keep the health service cost effective and safe for patients.'

A DH spokesperson said: ‘This sample survey was carried out before we launched our world-leading plan to improve conditions in general practice – so it doesn’t take into account our steps to improve morale and retention by investing £2.4bn more into primary care, making extra payments to GPs and cutting red tape while increasing flexible working. To ease future workforce pressures, we are also now training the highest number of GPs since records began.’

An NHS England South West spokesperson said: 'We know GPs are under pressure seeing more patients with more complex conditions. As part of a major new plan we will be training thousands more GPs over the coming years as well as increasing funding whilst upgrading buildings and equipment.
'We’re also introducing other health professionals to practices, such as physiotherapists, mental health nurses and pharmacists, who can offer more specific services and free-up GPs to treat the most ill patients.'

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