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Independents' Day

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)

  • Whats the point of writing this here! We all know the problem at coal face.
    Publish this in national papers.
    BM should take whole page adverts and involve in group discussions etc to promote this.

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  • The people in power ( not necessarily the government ) require primary care to fail. You cannot successfully privatise health care with an effective and low cost public funded service in position . It must be allowed to collapse . Large health corporations will move in and fill the gap ; much more expensively of course . The new health bill and current provision for general practice all points to this scenario. Anyone who has sense recognises this and is getting ready to bail. To prevent this the general public need to be aware of our worth. Judging by the comments made on the BBc health section ot the news everyone feels we have a simple job and are over paid for doing it . The truth of course is very different but corporate owned media will not put this forward. The BMa need to show what a fantastically cost effective service we provide .

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  • Has this BMA survey questioned only GPs who still retain their BMA membership? If so then you will find the percentage planning to bail out early is even higher. I am speaking as a disillusioned GP who cancelled my BMA membership (of more than 20 years) last year due to their ineffectual support of grassroots GPs. I have actioned plans to leave in a few years if not earlier. I feel saddened this is happening to our profession.

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  • DOH and Jeremy Hunt are "GP recruitment and retention deniers". They, like some in society, seem to believe that if you deny something for long enough then it becomes reality.

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  • It is a bit like the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Those who warned of it were labelled heretics and nut jobs. Human nature means that when everything is still above water, nobody can see the iceberg.

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  • Actually Dr Baker did yesterday - was on the BBC new website etc. Credit where it's due (not BMA though!) but I fear it's too little too late.

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  • I am looking forward to saying those infamous words "I told you so!!".
    The Daily Mail will be leading with "Evil medical students refuse to enter General Practice" and "Greedy and evil GPs have forced Jeremy Hunt to destroy General Practice as part of a plan of world domination and are in cahoots with aliens"

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  • Despite Dr Bakers warnings of the future state of General Practice I can only laugh when I read some of the media comments:
    Daily Mail -"According to the BMA, more than half of GPs are considering early retirement because their ‘morale’ is so low.
    Is it too much to ask that they might consider the ‘morale’ of fed-up patients who pay their large salaries – and reinstate a proper round-the-clock service?" and The Telegraph: " GPs need to demonstrate that they are in a position to take on the function of hospitals. People will not find Dr Baker’s protestations convincing if more is not done to provide better out-of-hours care and greater flexibility with bookings"

    So in essence when the public are continually fed this type of information, we as a profession will continue vote with our feet and leave our unacceptable work situation. The British public are loosing a valuable asset. They won't realise how good it was till its gone.

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  • They're planning to retire early because they can afford to retire early.

    Ask anyone in the population if they wouldn't like to be making plans to retire early - what do you think they'd say?

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  • In some ways we need the collapse to happen, people just do not get how good they have it. We as Dr's as a whole have self sacrificed to a degree that other professionals no not believe.
    I want NHS primary care to survive but am shocked at how evil the political journalistic class is. Short term benefit is all that they care about.
    That is not to say we have got a far way to go to get our house in order. the fact we ignore continuity of care issues is a major part of the problem. sticking our heads in the sand in not an answer

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