This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pulse june2020 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

The waiting game

Over two-thirds of GPs plan to leave or reduce hours, finds DH-backed study

Even 'desirable' areas of England are facing an 'impending healthcare crisis' as two in five GPs are planning to quit within five years, with researchers suggesting this has wider-reaching implications for workforce planning across the country.

The study, published today in the BMJ Open, also found that seven out of 10 GPs in the South West intend to change their working pattern to reduce patient contact in the next five years – either by leaving patient care, taking a career break or reducing their hours.

The University of Exeter researchers, whose work was funded by the Department of Health via the National Institute for Health Research, said that this 'snapshot of low morale' may point to a 'deeper and more imminent crisis than previously anticipated' with regard to GP shortages nationwide.

However, the Department of Health pointed out that the research, which included more than 2,000 GPs, was carried out last year, which could mean its GP Forward View £2.4bn rescue package for the profession may have moved things on.

Lead researcher Professor John Campbell, professor of general practice and primary care at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: 'We carried out this survey because of a nationally recognised crisis in the shortage of GPs across the country, and our findings show an even bleaker outlook than expected for GP cover, even in an area which is often considered desirable, and which has many rural communities.

'If GPs have similar intentions to leave or reduce their hours in other regions, as many are reporting, the country needs to take robust action more swiftly and urgently than previously thought.'

The research team sent surveys to 3,370 GPs across the South West, receiving responses from 2,248. Of these, more than half (54%) reported low morale, and this group was particularly likely to also say they were planning to quit the profession.

The researchers concluded that this highlighted 'the magnitude of the potential GP shortage crisis that is imminently facing the region, and reflect the current state of general practice in the UK'.

Professor Campbell, who is also a practising GP, suggested that the 'numerous Government-led initiatives' which are under way to address recruitment would not 'address the underlying serious malaise which is behind this data'.

He said: 'We are in a perilous situation in England, with poor morale of the current GP workforce, and major difficulties with recruitment and retention of GPs reflected in the stark overall reduction in the GP workforce. Reactive, sticking-plaster approaches are not the answer.'

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul told Pulse: 'Whist the Government has been focusing on 5,000 more GPs, these findings highlight a far greater scale of workforce reduction.

'The Government and NHS England need to focus on retaining doctors, not just looking at new recruits.'

The news comes after a UK-wide BMA survey of 16,000 GPs carried out two years ago found that 34% were thinking of retiring from the profession within five years. More than a quarter (28%) of respondents who currently worked full time said they were considering going down to part time.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP chair, said she was 'confident' that last year's £2.4bn NHS England rescue package for general practice 'is that long-term solution', and that the RCGP is therefore calling for it to be 'implemented in full, swiftly and effectively'.

A DH spokesperson said: 'This sample survey was carried out before we launched our world-leading plan to improve conditions in general practice – so it doesn’t take into account our steps to improve morale and retention by investing £2.4 billion more into primary care, making extra payments to GPs, and cutting red tape while increasing flexible working.'

GP numbers in decline

The worrying conclusion to the research study were underlined by the latest GP workforce figures, revealed in March.

These showed that number of full-time-equivalent GPs dropped by 1.3% - or 445 GPs - in the last three months of 2016 alone.

The statistics, which also showed headcount falling by 0.9% (390) in the same time period, come despite Government efforts to grow the overall GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020.

This has included the '10-point plan' to boost recruitment and retention drawn up in January 2015, and comes despite HEE reporting a record number of doctors opting for GP training in 2016/17.


Readers' comments (30)

  • The Department of Health statement exactly demonstrates all that is wrong with GP. They absolutely refuse to admit that their is any problem and if there is (never taking responsibility for creating it in the first place) then it is about to be fixed. But it never is. We all know that the £2.4 billion "rescue plan" will get watered down, disappear into secondary care and the final dribble to reach us will be so hedged about with impossible conditions as to make it impossible to achieve.
    The DH needs to say we got it wrong, you have been massively underfunded, here is the shortfall from yesteryear and here is the extra money going forward and look here it is in your bank account.

    Dream on.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Lack of accountability, dysfunctionality, politically motivated masters are completely out of their depth.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I retired 2 years ago when aged 60. My partner who replaced me as senior partner has just retired at 57. My former junior partner is now senior partner and already has had enough at 53 with the intention of retiring at 55. I feel sorry for the new partners in their early 30s who will be left at the coal face.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • i retired and just do 4 surgeries a week. i am very happy apart from cost of indemnity.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 'A DH spokesperson said: 'This sample survey was carried out before we launched our world-leading plan to improve conditions in general practice'

    Well, since this sample survey was carried out, my last 3 remaining partners have all resigned from the practice, leaving me as the last man standing. Thanks DH - I shall look forward to your world-leading funding making a big difference. Better make it quick though.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • A large wad of cash will fix this ala 2004. The NHSE knows this . But it does't want to fix it . We all know what is about to happen. If you possibly can -jump now . Any later and you will be killed in the implosion.
    There will be no rescue because it's already too late .

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Work is a chore not a vocation I choose!I have called it a day after23years as my health suffered and demand has increased year by year and financial cuts have worsened!.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • AlanAlmond

    The truth doesn't stop being the truth just because you regularly feed the newspapers with crap from a big government propaganda and bullshit department. It's a dangerous and stupid way of running a National Health Service. The guaranteed result is that solvable problems are ignored as HMS NHS steams full speed ahead into an obvious looming ice burg. As the ship goes down those at the wheel are busy congratulating themselves on a wonderful choice of wallpaper in the public relations room on the first deck.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Last year I reduced a session, this April I am seeing patients from 9 am instead of 8amand doing a 3 hour session instead of 4. Why - main reason - I took on 1000 patients but my local NHSE bosses decided to reduce my weighted list successively and only 400 of the new patients are paid for. My MPIG was reduced by 25k when they learnt he was taking me as a partner. I understand the privilege of being the only GP in UK to have an MPIG cut at a time when this was untouchable.
    My sympathy is with patients and my apologies too as I can't cope as I did. Time to pack up and even leave the country where you are treated as shit.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This comment has been moderated

  • The MPIG cut came in 2010.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say