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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPs entered contract on wave of optimism

GPs went into the new GMS contract feeling optimistic and more satisfied in their jobs than at any time since 1998.

Yet research into GPs' job satisfaction levels, carried out on the eve of the contract, reveals a quarter still intended to quit within five years.

The study of 1,950 GPs by the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre found long working hours, lack of recognition and inadequate pay levels were the greatest causes of dissatisfaction for GPs.

But the level of GPs' unhappiness at these problems had dropped since 2001.

GPs found greatest satisfaction in relationships with colleagues, job variety and their level of responsibility.

PMS GPs reported greater job satisfaction than their GMS counterparts.

Women GPs, particularly those who were older and had grown up children, were also happier. In contrast, male GPs aged 45 to 54 were the least content, the study published in this month's BJGP found.

Greater involvement in decisions, increasing job interest and conflicting demands on time were associated with higher satisfaction.

But higher pay was not a consistent indicator of satisfaction.

Salaried GPs were also not found to be significantly happier than principals.

Author Diane Whalley, re- search fellow at the NPCRDC, said the majority of GPs expected the new contract to increase administrative and clinical workloads, while reducing professional autonomy.

She said: 'It remains to be seen whether improvements in job satisfaction can be sustained amid GPs' early experiences with the new contract.'

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator, said the out of hours opt-out and extra pay had helped GP morale but workload during normal working hours remained high.

He added: 'PMS GPs have secured higher level income than GMS and have been able to address their workload.'

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chief executive of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said 'satisfaction was suppressed as they were more open to abuse'.

Key findings

· GPs more satisfied than 2001, but not as satisfied as in 1998

· Colleagues, variety and responsibility bring most satisfaction

· Hours, recognition and remuneration cause greatest dissatisfaction

· PMS GPs, women GPs with older children and those earning over £100,000 happiest

· Male GPs aged 45 to 54 least satisfied

· Salaried GPs no happier than principals

· Paperwork, workload and insufficient time cause most pressure

· Night visits and 24 hour responsibility caused least pressure

· Finding a locum more hassle than in 1998 or 2001

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