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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 4:07

    You have grasped the mangnitude of the problem. Pity the government is not taking any notice.

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  • Una 4.28

    Completely agree with you. ONLY the patients can save General Practice and no media campaign will have any effect. If however a couple of thousand of our patients would write to their MP then I'm sure our plight would very quickly move up the political agenda.
    We have to stop just being doctors and act for our profession in the interest of our patient.
    A massive poster campaign and the involvement of our PPGs to encourage our patients to fight for their services is the ONLY hope.

    Excellent idea and for this reason I have just put you down as my first preference in the BMA Council elections. These are the sort of actions the BMA should initiate.

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  • Una Coales

    @7:13 pm thank you for your vote.

    Here is a reminder of how an MP and patients kept a GP from leaving his surgery. Slightly different scenario but the strategy is the same. When patients are notified their surgery will close and their favourite GP is leaving, patients wrote their local MP, story got in the local Echo newspaper, local MP joined the fight, wrote to the Home Office, made representations and the GP got to stay! Only MPs and patients can petition to ease the burden on NHS GPs and offer a lifeline of semi private income like dentistry.

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  • @8:44pm and another vote, so fed up with the absolutely hopeless BMA that I was going to return a blank voting paper. Having seen your level of activity on the forums I have opened the envelope to add only 1 vote, so do not let us down.

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  • Follow up on my 7.13 post.
    I do not know Una Coales and have NO affiliation whatsoever.
    Since then I've had a BMA News update in my inbox in which Chaand Nagpaul ( who I really respect) updates us on the misery we are in. Thanks Chaand as we wouldn't know but you are missing the point here.
    Our patients need to know!!!
    Oh, BBC News at 10 coverage: 3000 schools closed because of teachers strike - coverage 5 seconds, Max Clifford consensual sex or not coverage over 1 minute, Clegg vs Farrage coverage , not sure as almost fell asleep over it.
    This should tell us that no matter how many lobbyist the BMA sends into Westminster or White City we will always be outgunned by someone else.
    We BMA members now have to lobby our own trade union to realize and mobilize our real supporters-our patients.
    I feel like calling on my fellow BMA fee payers who are fleeced hundreds of pounds each year for a lousy magazine and overpriced 'Masterclasses' to lobby our BMA, GPC voice their views and email Chaand to work out a campaign how to involve our patients for THEIR sake.
    I think Una's suggestion would be a starting point.

    Good luck Una.

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  • Follow up on 10.56 and 7.13 post.
    I've just googled Una Coales and now know what she looks like and what she's done so far.
    More than happy with my vote.

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  • Una Coales

    Thank you Andrew and @10:56 pm. I have suggested to other BMA council candidates that they answer grassroots GP queries and comments in Pulse. Seems obvious that if you want to represent, you go out, find out the problems and seek solutions. Why remain quiet when GPs are working flat out and the profession is on the brink of collapse?

    The time is not to state the obvious but to think outside of the box for solutions. Politicians will do anything for their voters, so now it is time the BMA lobbied the public to save their GPs and family practice from extinction. There should be huge poster campaign drives in all surgeries warning patients that their surgeries are under threat of closure.

    Did the patients in Dulwich know that their local practice is about to be closed at the end of this month, as NHS England has stalled for over a year and still not renewed the premise lease? There is a cozy quaint coffee shop next door full of mothers after school runs. Why do they have no idea? GPs are part of every community just like the local policeman, local parish priest, local butcher, local head teacher. It is time to remind local communities, that GPs have their best health and wellbeing interests at heart. They know that privatisation and HMOs will mean many cannot afford private insurance and that there must still be some state provision for the poor and the elderly.

    State NHS GP surgeries can still operate if they are able to create their own funding and subsidize state care by dual private and state care. If the public knew their local surgery would close and they would have to travel miles to the next surgery and wait 3 weeks for an appointment, surely they would agree to some form of top up or copayments to keep their local open.

    There are 3 stakeholders, local MPs, local public communities and local GPs. Time to delegate some of the work and ask for help. And we can use local media to raise the profile of local surgeries on the brink of closure.

    There is approx £20 million in the BMA GPDF pot from levies from NHS GP surgeries. Time for them to start spending on a huge public campaign with posters on buses, bus stops, every surgery door, etc. to save the best of British traditional family practice, like saving your local school or local parish.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    The BMA will NEVER take any sort of action. The only thing that will work, and I think it WILL, is the exodus of those of us 55 + who are terminally pissed off, like me and Mrs G.

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  • Una Coales

    The BMA will take action if members show their dissatisfaction with 'customer service' by not paying their annual £443 subscription? Step up your game or lose your customers! Customers come first!

    BMA take note!

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  • Una Coales

    Local GP is bringing along her local MP Lilian Greenwood to a meeting at Parliament for GPs and patients on Wednesday. I shall be there too to stick up for battered grassroots GPs.

    Give them a lifeline like dentistry. Why brow beat them for making general practice as good as it is? They made state care possible for millions by investing a lot of extra unpaid time and goodwill. You took them away from private practice in 1948. Why reward them with disdain, media heckling, poverty pay and bury them in paperwork and bureaucracy red tape in 2014. It is not their fault US bankers sold subprime mortgages that sent the world spiraling downwards into a debt crisis.

    On second thought, industrial strike action is the only immediate solution. Need to emulate the teachers and the lawyers. NHS England cannot close all the surgeries who strike if all surgeries agree to strike.

    The passive aggressive route is to all just slowly resign, emigrate or disappear, one by one until the profession loses the best of what makes a family GP unique, the doctor as a drug. And the young ones will venture back into private practice. What will become of the poor and elderly when state GPs are no more and HMOs will only see pts with private medical insurance?

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