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Why are so many GPs under 50 leaving the profession?

Researchers find overwork and burnout are major factors in the departure of younger GPs, reports Sofia Lind

GPs under the age of 50 are abandoning UK general practice as they feel ‘unsupported and vulnerable to burnout’, a study commissioned by NHS England has concluded.

The study, published in the British Journal of General Practice last month, found changes to the profession played a bigger part in GPs’ decision to leave than personal circumstances.

The researchers from the University of Bath, University of Bristol and Staffordshire University surveyed and interviewed 143 GPs under 50 who had left the profession, concluding that ‘to improve retention of young GPs, the pace of administrative change needs to be minimised and the time spent by GPs on work that is not face-to-face patient care reduced’. 

It comes as Pulse’s long-running Battling Burnout campaign has highlighted soaring rates of burnout within the profession. The campaign contributed to NHS England’s decision last year to announce a new national support service for all hard-pressed GPs, which is expected to launch from April.

Dr Zoe Norris, media lead of pressure group GP Survival, said: ‘It is extremely useful to have confirmation in a peer-reviewed, well-recognised journal, of what grassroots GPs have been saying all along – that GPs want to get on with their jobs. We want to see patients.’

An NHS England spokesperson said it was ‘working hard across the health service to help GPs through the current pressures as well as investing £10 million in ways to further boost the workforce’. 

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Readers' comments (34)

  • 9.16, I am sorry to hear about your life and others will be too. My life also could have been destroyed by the system, but I chose to appreciate the fact that I could not revalidate and now am really happy that I have escaped as I would not have done it by choice as I identified myself as a doctor and could not see life outside. Now I was effectively forced to go due to the regulations but am now happy to be a non doctor! No more GMC!!!!!!
    Good luck 9.16.

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  • To the doctors above who have left general practice, you will get no sympathy from me. Just a massive CONGRATULATIONS for releasing yourself from the shackles of a soul destroying impossible contract.
    Forget the delaying tactics of our so called leaders (many of them self-appointed, I am discovering by doing minimal research).
    The future is ours!

    Ditch the contract comrades!

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  • I'm leaving too.

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  • @ 9:54

    Ditching the contract doesnt make a shred of difference.

    Full time, part time, portfolio, locum, out of hours sessional, maternity cover...any form of work in the NHS is still working in the same soul destroying system within the same energy sapping infrastructure, a cog in the wheel of self destruction.

    being anywhere near the poisonous environment is nauseating and hazardous to ones sanity and physical health.

    there's something awful thats happened to the UK and its about to get much much worse.

    its time for people to face facts, the UK you grew up in is gone forever, just a distant memory and with a recession on the way, further health cuts arriving and an addled government with perhaps another decade in power the UK will resemble Chad in a decade or so......

    the country and the system is FUBAR!!

    DITCH THE COUNTRY COMRADES!!!!!

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  • Left for Oz few years ago. Was working in a reasonable area, but the ever increasing demands of patients with lists who would not be cut short, after going way-over their 10 min appt, combined with trying to cram in the QOF at the same time, made me realise that I couldn't go on in UK GP. Also too much abuse of the system - no self-care for minor illness, ripping off the DWP - and all for free! Life's much better now, and anyone who can make the move I'd encourage them.

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  • I'm getting fed up with seeing long gone to Oz gloaters or get rich quick locumers continually hogging the threads with their 'ditch this, ditch' that pronouncements. Well done, good for you - now move on. Let the grown folk speak about trying to save and revitalise a profession they have entered and wish to once again enjoy the job without having to resort to travelling 1/2 way across the world like a war refugee to seek gainful employment; nor become a locum because you believe seeing a patients once in their life for a buck constituents long-term job satisfaction.

    As the likes of Shaba and Una have said we need strong leadership to protect, no reclaim, what was once an enjoyable and rewarding profession. That is not being a cardigan, its about being proud of the efforts that you have put in in blood, sweat, tears and hours to become a doctor in the UK and refusing to accept that any government or media can belittle our worth and push us out of this country.

    Debate and argument from all sides are welcomed, but gloating is definitely not.

    DITCH YOUR GLOATING

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  • @1:50am

    You should consider a career in stand up comedy once the NHS collapses. You've got extraordinary powers of making people lose bladder control.

    As for Dr Coales, she was once of the trailblazers that convinced me to emigrate in the first place. If telling the truth is gloating then i make no apologies. In a forum like this its imperative one hears views from the whole of the spectrum and not just the so called "leader" who are regularly interviewed in their ivory towers and cashmere cardigans.

    we need people such as yourself to hold the fort while the rest of us plan our escape.

    Ditch your delusions!!

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  • Our "leaders"seem to be twitching the corpse that was once General Practice,pretending to fight back while going nowhere.Our profession is such a fragmented mess due to boomer self interest now that the only way to protest and or take control is have your own plans.There is NO ONE out there with the interests of the profession or the interest of the individual at heart.You after look after yourself,your own career and family.Is this failed arm of the profession worth saving?At the moment I seriously doubt it.

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  • @1.50

    I don't think it is gloating from people. I think they are still struggling with coming to terms with their career changes that makes them even look on pulse anymore.

    I say this as a partner in his late 30's who has recently resigned from my partnership and working his notice as it was becoming too much of a strain on my mental health and family life. I still feel bad about doing so, as though I have left my colleagues in the lurch.

    I left without a plan other than to look at locum work. I have thought about quitting medicine, but as with a lot of unhappy doctors I lack the imagination to think of a life outside of medicine having done it for so long.

    With a family committment moving abroad was not an option for me, and in no way do I look at locum as get rich quick scheme. To me when I start locuming it is about taking some control back

    It's pretty offensive to say let the grown ups discuss this and I think you should feel at least a little ashamed of that comment. People coming in and actually saying things can be better working in a different way is a support for many people who might be feeling right on the edge. People shouldn't feel the need to "cope" until they are broken, and unsupportive comments in such a way to colleagues is a part of the medical culture that we should be ashamed of.

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  • GP leaders have been too busy "saving the NHS", and volunteering our services as social workers and an "ideally placed" dump-box for everyone else's problems, to worry about saving General Practitioners.

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