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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)

  • I an leaving - why!

    I can't stand Mr Hunt and his ideology.

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  • I am among those who have left and I am delighted that I did. How can you work with a GMC and a MPTS acting arbitrarily against doctors? I wonder why doctors do remain rather than to leave. From terror regimes the only defense is to escape or you'll be crushed. There is no possibility to save yourselves otherwise. Congratulations to those who remain. I wrote and published a book in order to preserve the safety of Italian colleagues: England: UK Unknown Kingdom.

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  • I have heard of people being let down by their friends but to be killed off by the DoH/NHSE is like being let down by a family member... Sad...Really Sad!

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  • right now things are bad so close your eyes and imagine what it is going to be like with the following;

    1. 7 day working with minimum 12 hr shifts and of course not enough staff to rota out safe working hours. add in catch up work and you are looking at 14 hr days 7 days a week for less pay.
    2. more stringent CQC,QOF, re-validation criteria as we must keep up 'quality'
    3. more stringent penalties (litigation, multiple jeopardy, imprisonment, GMC overturning judgments as they feel fit, prolonged investigation forcing you out of work)
    4. massive increase in defense fees who don't view weekends or OOHs work as core. increase in cqc, gmc etc fees. generally higher than inflation increase in expenses.
    5. more work shifted from secondary care and everywhere else as their budgets as cut.
    6. more and more demand from unhappy consumers (let's be honest we no longer have patients) in which you are to blame for any part of the NHS that doesn't please them
    7. falling pay to the extent that 50k a year offered to PAs seem a better deal.
    8. lack of support from everyone
    9. perpetual media bashing destroying the last bit of self-respect you have

    basically more risk, stress and a lot less reward (emotionally and financially).

    things are not going to get better - there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

    the RCGP, GPC have nothing to offer so I don't see things getting better. you could try throwing money at the problem but you will have to offer a lot more than 20k per GP and even then i'd take the money to speed up leaving ! money won't bring back goodwill

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  • @1:50 General practice is far beyond the point of no return. All that is left is to watch it pass away. RIP UK General practice and hello rest of the world :D

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • Anonymous | GP Partner04 Feb 2016 1:50am

    You're assuming we have leaders with testes. Dr Coales was top drawer but rejected by the cardigans - and now her principle message is save yourselves.

    I, like you, once loved the NHS. But I see it doing unspeakable things to people I care about - professionals who worshipped it, but who don't understand why their self-sacrifice is in vain.

    We stand on a £3bn deficit in the NHS, or roughly half the GP budget, and JH is simply telling all the acute FDs to fiddle the books so it doesn't look so bad. He's buying time to devolve the blame to local authorities for when it falls over. At that point, expect co-pay, insurance or wholesale commercialisation.

    I admire you fight, but its time to declare TOD. Examine the evidence, and make a choice for yourself. Many here are simply explaining the rationale for their choices.

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    @1:12 pm thank you for acknowledging my efforts. We grassroots GPs all tried but enough banging one's head against a brick wall.

    How can we GPs compete when the Tories ease pressure on tax shellters for global giants? https://www.rt.com/uk/314239-tax-haven-transparency-conservatives/

    Why are workers paying income tax, NI, road tax, pension contributions, MDO indemnity, etc. while global tech giants save £100s of millions if not billions in tax? Cayman Islands is a British colony!

    The NHS could have been funded with the billions in uncollected tax. The public could have been offered a chance of saving the NHS with copayments. We haven't scrapped universities but asked our young to pay, first £3k a year and now £9k a year. But the Tories would rather close the NHS and hand healthcare over like a commodity to private companies with shareholders who will want to see profits for their investments.

    The longer you stay in the UK, the more you may end up with nothing to show, as now I hear even a place in a care home for a parent with dementia costs £7,000/month! Or £84k per year! Who can afford this?

    Best to find a country without a trillion pound deficit. Look for a country with a thriving economy, democratic principles and not socialism, as socialism fails in a nation with a £1.5 trillion public debt. Socialist-communism failed during East Europe/Soviet Union's recession, which is why the Berlin wall came down. There comes a time when a system runs out of spending other people's money, debts will catch up and sadly Generation Y are now paying the price.

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  • ....Then after all the existing pressures, the poor old remaining doctors will be faced by a new licencing/revalidation exam to be taken by ALL medics!!!! The GMC small fry guy told me this as I was coming off the register 'voluntarily'. The guy I spoke to realised it would not be popular on top of everything else we have to do- understatment of the year perhaps!
    Previous comments were right that some of us do keep coming back to this website despite having 'left' the profession as we still identify ourselves as being doctors.
    Personally even after I do not now have a licence, life is very much better now. No gloating intended at all.
    I accept I will I always be a bit sad as letting go my licence it was initially like part of my life dying. But far from being the end of the world, it was more of a beginning of a different more happy and much less stressed life. My prioriries have changed and I work now only on my own terms.
    My family have been very supportive and have appreciated all the extra time I can give to them now.
    So for anyone who is at their wits end, leaving really may be the option for you as after this loss comes new oppertunities!

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  • To 2.20 "the poor remaining doctors..."

    Poor? No! The answer is to freelance and just factor this persecutory cr@p into your fee. The harder they make it to practise, the more we should charge. Money talks!

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  • To 8.22, you go get em! You are right. The very few remaining doctors who are stuck here should indeed freelance and charge as much as they possibly can for their services. Only this will make it worthwhile. I salute you!

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