GP are increasingly seeking flexible careers as they reduce risk of burn-out and cope with demands, according to a major analysis published today.
General practice is at the centre of changes as more than a third of GPs – 36% – have reduced their hours in the past year, according to the General Medical Council.
Meanwhile 45% of GPs reported working less than full time. These are most likely to be women and mid-career, according to the GMC’s annual “The state of medical education and practice 2019″ report.
The report shows a move away from traditional career and training paths, to spending time working as a locum, practising medicine abroad, or taking a year out before specialty or GP training. It also found that those who paused before starting their specialty training tended to suffer less burnout.
Chief executive of the General Medical Council, Charlie Massey, said: “The challenge our health services are facing is no secret. We need more flexible training and career options if high levels of patient care and safety are to be sustained.
“That doctors are making choices for a better work-life balance and career development is a new reality which health services cannot ignore. Establishing a sustainable workforce and encouraging supply, particularly of expert generalists who can spread the burden in primary care, is vital.”
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, commented: “It’s not surprising to see more GPs reducing or planning to reduce the number of clinical hours they work. They shouldn’t be criticised for this – it’s this flexibility in working patterns that general practice offers that makes the job sustainable.
“We need steps to be taken to make the job more ‘doable’ by reducing workload for GPs, funding our service appropriately and delivering on pledges to increase the GP workforce.”
British Medical Association chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “Crucially, as this report notes, exhausted and burnt out doctors, overwhelmed by demand, are struggling to provide the level of care that patients deserve. This is affecting quality and safety of the care that’s being delivered. It’s clear that the impact of the state of the NHS is being felt across the whole profession – from juniors beginning their careers, to experienced hospital doctors and GPs.
“When we already have 10,000 medical vacancies in the NHS, the Government and employers need to do more to retain the existing workforce. This means recognising the flexible working patterns that doctors are increasingly opting for, and as the BMA has consistently called for, a learning rather than a blame culture in the health service.”
Suzie Bailey of the King’s Fund added: “The new government’s plans for health and care will rely on having adequately staffed services. As well as recruiting more staff, it is crucial that services hold on to and develop the staff they already employ.”