Why Dutch GPs are happier than GPs in the UK

Dutch GPs dramatically improved their job satisfaction levels after a campaign to change their working environment, Professor Jako Burgers told delegates at the RCGP Annual Conference in Liverpool.

The Netherlands GP said the 'It Must Change!' movement had secured the signatures of 70% of GPs to its manifesto within two weeks of launch in April 2015.

Dutch GPs had then worked with the government, healthcare insurers and other stakeholders to reduce bureaucracy, facilitate collaboration, improve the quality system and increase professional autonomy.

Professor Burgers is head of the Department of Guideline Development and Research at the Dutch College of General Practitioners, where GPs produce their own national guidelines for clinical practice.

He told delegates there were 11,000 GPs in the Netherlands, working across 7,900 practices, with all GPs providing overnight care twice a month. A GP consultation is free to patients and there is an 80% satisfaction rate.

Key differences between UK and Netherlands

Professor Burgers, a GP in Gorinchem, said there were key differences in the recent experience of UK and Dutch GPs. In the UK, GP income had fallen by 11% since 2008, while Dutch earnings were unchanged. The patient consultation rate in the UK had increased by 24% since 1998, compared to zero change in the Netherlands over the past five years.

There was also a stark difference in the popularity of the GP role, with hundreds of training posts going unfilled in UK while in the Netherlands there were 1,200 applicants for 750 trainee vacancies.

Professor Burgers said the key factors for success that could be followed by other countries included clear government support, a strong, well-accepted national professional organisation, and a payment system that supported primary care, the coordination of care and additional primary care services.

A longstanding evidence-based guideline programme, led by the profession, was also important, as was collaborative working and local peer support to help avoid burnout among GPs.

Watch the full video of Professor Burgers' speech to the RCGP Annual Conference in Liverpool, and all other plenary speakers

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