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Tens of thousands of GPs on brink of early retirement, BMA finds

A major BMA survey has revealed that six in ten GPs are considering early retirement and more than half say their morale is either ‘low’ or ‘very low’, in findings that will form the core of the profession’s fight back against Government cuts to general practice.

The survey, which involved 420 GP respondents, also revealed that almost half the respondents having already made changes or planning to make changes to their work life balance.  

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he would use the ‘shocking’ results to lobby ministers on the impact of the ongoing drive to keep patients out of hospital, and highlight how funding cuts are threatening to overwhelm general practice.

A separate RCGP poll of patients showed almost two-thirds of respondents believe the sheer volume of consultations taking place are a threat to patient care. RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said over the weekend that general practice is in real danger of ‘extinction’.

Pulse recently revealed that GPs in some parts of England are currently working for free as a result of the changes made by the imposed 2013/14 GP contract, and a series of below inflation pay uplifts. The 0.28% pay uplift for 2014/15 has also reduced the morale of GPs.

The survey, which the BMA said is accurate to within 3.3% at a 95% confidence level, found that 56.8% had considered retiring early, while 27.7% had thought of leaving the profession.

Furthermore, 47% said they had already made changes, or are in the process of planning for a change to their work life balance. Only 14.1% said they had not considered a move away from their current role.

When asked how they would describe their current level of morale, 39% answered ‘low’, and 16% said ‘very low’. Only 1% said it was ‘very high’, while 13% said it was ‘high’.

It also found that 54.1% of GPs described their current workload as ‘unmanageable or unsustainable’.

Dr Nagpaul said general practice was in danger of becoming ‘overwhelmed’.

He told Pulse: ‘It is shocking that so many GPs intend to retire early. The Government has to act to retain the workforce – by making the workload manageable and providing enough resources. GPs are overstretched and overwhelmed, and there is not the capacity to deal with the volume of work that is moving out of hospital.’

Dr Nagpaul added: ‘We are seeing morale dip to a level that I cannot remember in my 25 years as a GP.’

One survey respondent, Norfolk-based GP Dr John Harris-Hall, said of his decision to retire early: ‘The increasing demand and workload pressure are leading to low morale and stress, causing many GPs like myself to leave the profession. I am sad to retire early but I feel there is no other choice. Enough is enough.’

The RCGP poll of 1,007 patients found that 62% believe that the number of patient consultations GPs conduct each day – which the RCGP estimated at between 40-60 in most cases – is a threat to the standard of care they can provide to patients.

The poll, conducted by ComRes, also found that 28% of those surveyed could not get an appointment in the same week when they last tried to book an appointment.

Dr Baker said: ‘General practice as we know it is now under severe threat of extinction. It is imploding faster than people realise and patients are already bearing the brunt of the problem. This will only get worse unless urgent action is taken to redress the huge and historic imbalance in funding.’

Related images

  • Dr Chaand Nagpaul 2013 - online

Readers' comments (134)

  • anonymous @ 8.52pm

    The government ARE trying to get rid of us(GP Partnerships priority one)
    The press won't stop denigrating us because it is the government who are influencing their powerful friends in the media to do so.
    Have a look at the video on 'save our NHS ' website and look at the number of lobbyist firms that have mushroomed up in the vicinity of Westminister funded by large corporate healthcare providers.Next
    Google politicians who have financial links to lobbyist firms ...you will then understand what the ultimate plan is....wholesale takeover of Primary Care by the private sector.
    A confused and bewildered public tainted by an onslaught of media propaganda against us unable to get appointments at their GP vent their anger on us...a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas.
    Alas they will rue the day they get what the politians have planned when that day comes but it will be too late.

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  • the headline is total scaremongering!

    'Tens of thousands of GPs' - come on now there are only 40,000 GPs are you seriously saying that 10,000+ GPs are going to retire? there is a big difference from saying you are going to do something and actually doing it! I will believe it when i see it.

    it's just the usual GP whinging - stop reading pulse and see to your patients!

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  • If employers pension contribution is increased substantially you will see a stampede for the exits. This increase will be the " 4 minute warning " and will clearly demonstrate HMG's intention for primary care . Watch closely for the announcement and be ready to bail out .

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  • Anonymous 7:44

    Close your eyes and imagine several GP surgeries in a town boarded up. Perhaps they closed within a few weeks of each other because the one remaining GP partner could not carry the practice.

    Then imagine the chaos and the consternation of their patients who have lost their surgery. They have no one to do their repeat prescriptions, their outpatient letters are piling up unread. A+E are so overwhelmed that patients are dying because no one has managed to triage them in time, the hospitals have no beds.

    Think of all the functions a GP surgery does, all headed by 3 or 4 GPs. There are a lot of ancillary staff that help BUT it is the GP partners who do most of the vital work that holds the practice together. If they all go together they may not come back. Would you work in the horror of a collapsed primary care ?

    They better start planning a managed wind down of General Practice because the country is on the edge of chaos, the like of which we have never seen.

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  • @8.46 what do you mean? Employers superannuation contributions have already rocketed to 15% - did you miss this?

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  • no- I mean watch out for increases over and above this.

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  • Anonymous | 26 March 2014 9:12am

    Now you close your eyes and imagine if those GPs from those practices decided to pull out of the NHS contract and form private practices (run by themselves). Patient would have a choice - use those services or go to the next town. Those GPs can control their list size, set their fees with no NHSE and much less bureaucracy. It will be hard work but they will be rewarded and they can get on and focus on quality patient care whilst maintaining independence. It will provide a simple method of controlling demand in the process.

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  • The problem is that it would only take one or two medium size surgeries to go down to set of a catalytic chain of failures. General practice is run a bit like a Ponzi scheme - we keep growing the lists to fund the work we do today without making a return to pay for the increased demand. There is a lot of debt around but the banks could start calling it in if the partnership loans start looking too risky. Once you loose a few partners the remaining ones would rightly feel nervous as there is no plan for managing the increased financial or clinical responsibility. It's not difficult to see primary care being lost from certain less attractive or isolated parts of the country as the number of GPs in the system falls due to the looming retirement demographics. Following this local hospitals would rapidly become over-run This is not unrealistic as there have already been places that cannot recruit. The GPC need to urgently campaign for managed decline because a chaotic breakup of primary care would have unthinkable consequences.

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  • Una Coales

    Industrial action is ruled out on the basis that NHSEng would sue surgeries left right and centre for breach of contract, bang, bang and bang your dead and closed.

    The solution is your patients. Put a huge poster on the door that says our practice is at iminent risk of closure due to x, y and z. Please lobby your local MP or councillor to save your local surgery and keep your GPs from leaving.

    That way when your surgery closes as you cannot keep new partners, last one left with 1 month's notice, as no one wants to work in a pressure cooker for less pay than a salaried or locum GP, your patients will then take their ire out against their local MP. Local MPs, you are now hereby warned! Alert your local paper.

    As for PMS practices, you need to keep up with the latest PMS and MPIG reforms. It means £150,000 of income may disappear into thin air. No point burying your head in the sand. Are you ready?

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  • Unfortunately only a small number of patients will take action when it directly affects them. the daily mail et al have done a real number on us , so we are now perceived as over paid lazy pill pushers . We are in desperate need of positive image portrayal - the truth would do. Could the BMA take out some full page ads / TV commercials / celebrities visit practices etc . Only when our evil image is countered can we make any progress.

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