GP leaders said the profession faced a ‘workload disaster’ and would be unable to cope with patient demand without serious support and investment from the government.
In the past year, 57% of GPs said they had considered retiring early, the BMA’s quarterly GP opinion tracker poll found.
More than half of GPs (54%) said their current workload was always ‘unmanageable or unsustainable’, while almost all GPs said it reached this level at times.
A similar proportion (55%) said their morale was low or very low.
GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘It is clear general practice is facing a workload disaster that is threatening its long-term future. We are seeing morale dip to a level that I cannot remember in my 25 years as a GP.
‘Six out of 10 GPs are considering early retirement and more than a third are actively planning to end their career early. This could lead to a serious workforce crisis in general practice where we do not have enough GPs to treat patients.’
Well over a quarter (28%) of the BMA’s 3,000-doctor panel said they had considered simply quitting the profession.
Switching to less than full-time work was an option 53% of GPs had considered, 9% had thought about moving to a different specialty, and 24% considered working overseas.
Just 14% of GPs said they were happy in their current job and had not considered a change.
However, the poll also showed that despite the pressure GPs were continuing to innovate to adapt to patient demand.
Four out of five GP practices said they were working to increase emergency appointment availability.
Many were also working to extend access to named GPs and to expand services available in their practice.
GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This survey demonstrates that GPs are working harder than ever before to meet the demands of their patients, as well as working innovatively to provide the service their local community want, including providing more emergency care appointments and evening consultations.’
He added: ‘The root cause of this crisis is that GP practices are facing an unprecedented combination of rising patient demand, especially from an ageing population, and declining resources. The government is also asking GP practices to provide more services, including many involving the transfer of hospital care into the community, without the resources required to successfully deliver them.
‘We need politicians to realise that in order to meet the challenges facing general practice, we need to value the hard work GPs are undertaking by supporting them properly. This includes expanding the number of GPs so that patients are given the time and care that they deserve. Most importantly, the government needs to work with all healthcare professionals and patients to find practical solutions to a crisis that is threatening to overwhelm general practice.’
Norfolk GP Dr John Harris-Hall said he planned to retire early after 31 years as a GP.
‘I am sad to retire early, but I feel there is no other choice; enough is enough,’ he said. ‘GPs are constantly being told by the government to do more with less. The increasing demand and workload pressures are leading to low morale and stress, causing many GPs, like myself, to leave the profession.’