Large numbers of GPs are bringing forward retirement plans amid concerns about growing workload pressures, researchers warn today.
Most GPs believe they are working more hours than two years ago and that morale has worsened in the profession, according to the analysis conducted by Warwick University.
According to the survey, as many as 42.1% of doctors intend to leave NHS general practice within five years. This contrasts with 31.8% when the same survey was done in the same region just four years ago. Doctors said they had felt little impact from recent initiatives to improve working conditions – while they were concerned about policy initiatives such as the use video consultations.
Researchers found some optimism about the NHS Long-term Plan, which was announced last month and promised significant extra resources for general practice. The surveys were conducted in the Wessex region and involved more than 900 doctors. The researchers said the age and profile of the doctors reflected the UK nationally.
Researcher Professor Jeremy Dale said: “There’s a worsening crisis in general practice. The situation is bad, it is getting worse and GPs are feeling increasingly overworked and increasingly negative about the future.”
He added: “Recent NHS schemes to recruit more GPs haven’t paid dividends and the consequence is that GPs are still saying that their workload is getting more intense and increasingly difficult to cope with. It’s not perceived that the NHS has taken seriously the crisis facing general practice, and that some policy-led changes in themselves are actually making the workload within general practice less sustainable.
“The point that came through repeatedly in the survey was that GPs felt that we’ve gone a long way down the road of insufficient investment and insufficient reward. Turning this around will be a mammoth task.”
Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said: “This is yet another worrying report about the state of the GP workforce crisis and these findings are consistent with other surveys which give rise to growing concerns for practices and their patients.
“Added to this is the fact that almost one in every two GPs are over the age of 45. The medical workforce is ageing, and many experienced older doctors are finding that working in today’s NHS is too taxing on their work-life balance and can have a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing, causing some to seek early retirement.
“Now is a critical time to address the underlying issues that are causing GPs to want to leave the profession.”