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Half of GPs may quit profession over contract changes, LMCs warn

Half of GPs are considering quitting general practice and two-thirds say their practice will struggle to remain viable due to the Government’s planned contract changes, according to the largest survey of the profession to date.

The survey by six LMCs collated responses from 2,700 GPs in South West England and delivers a stark warning that practices are struggling with rising workload over the past few years, and that the changes due to be imposed on them from April will mark a watershed for the profession.

Some 84% of respondents said their current practice workload is not sustainable, and 48% said it was ‘dangerously unsustainable’.

The survey comes as the BMA conducts its own survey on the proposed contract changes, asking if it could make them leave the NHS, and after Pulse revealed that more than three quarters of GP partners expect to slash their drawings and nearly half expect to cut extra services offered to patients if the Government’s proposed contract changes come into force.

The survey found 67% of respondents said their practice would struggle to remain viable due to the contract changes and that 48% of GPs said they would be considering alternative options for earning a living or taking some form of retirement.

Over 90% of GPs reported that their working day had become longer in the last three years, 96% reported that the intensity of work had increased over the last 3 years and 94% reported their work had become more complex.

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Avon, Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wessex LMCs carried out the survey. Devon LMC chair Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said the survey showed that the workload on practices was becoming unsustainable.

He said: ‘The survey mirrors growing concerns among the professions leaders about the effects of workload on the safe delivery of a sustainable system of general practice in the south-west, especially in view of the forthcoming reduction in resources to practices. ‘

‘The NHS is going through a period of great change and the country faces significant financial challenges, but this survey shows the level of risk to the existence of general practice as we know it. The personal GP system which is valued by patients and has repeatedly been shown to offer excellent value for money is under serious threat from the Government’s plans for the future.’

The Government’s consultation on contract proposals closes next month, with an imposed contract expected to come into effect from 1 April.

 

Key findings
- 67% of respondents said their practice would struggle to remain viable
- 93% of GPs reported that their working day had become longer in the last three years and 45% said it was much longer
- 96% reported that the intensity of work had increased over the last 3 years with 50% saying it was much more intense
- 94% reported their work had become more complex
- 48% of GPs said they would be considering alternative options for earning a living or taking some form of retirement

- Changes from April led 84% of respondents to say that current workload is not sustainable, with 48% saying it is dangerously unsustainable

Source: Avon, Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wessex LMCs

Readers' comments (32)

  • And where will all of these GPs go? There is no appetite within the population to have a Private GP system - Joe Public will not pay! As GPs exit, their places will be filled from outside of the UK. Lots of GPs out of work and lots of imported medicine. A nice try to make the government blink.

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  • Actually no.
    Many partners could simply retire and work as locums and this of course would mean that the admin part of any contract would not be managed. The clinical part of the job would still be done and so would keeping up clinically.
    Younger GPs are well placed to either emigrate or start a new career.
    Just because the government is not interested in the future of general practice does not mean that GPs have to behave like sheep in slavery.
    Some, of course, will male a living in private GP land if they are geographically well placed but most will, at some point, for the sake of their mental and physical health, think creatively and move on.

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  • In terms of hollow threats GPs seem to have a cornered the market! Just listen to those at the top - you've handed over all the cards to the government. Reducing services to patients - if you don't get lucrative contracts - won't be any solution and handing over your businesses, turning yourselves into a group of salaried employees of profit machines, won't save you from financial impositions!

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  • It may not save us from financial impositions but it certainly will save us from unsustainable work load. As an employee the law is on your side - if work cannot be completed in reasonable time it is no longer the salaries GP's problem. No more working over the weekend to catch up on paper work, no more management planning on Saturday, no more working 12 hours with no rest. I will get study leaves instead of using annual leave to go on courses, I won't have to read ant CQC guidance, and I won't have to mop us the mess made by member of the staff.

    Most of us are not asking to be paid more - we are asking for the work load to be at a reasonable level with stable and reasonable income. I don't even mind dropping my income if my working hours are going down to uk average of 37.5 hours - I can easily supplement it by working 15 more hours doing alternative work if I wanted to (and I still won't be working more than now)

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  • What young GP would want to become a partner nowadays?. All the responsibility of meeting CQC, DES, LES, QUIPs and QOFs etc etc. Hire and fire staff, keep up to date with employment law, pay for the building you work from. Profits squeezed, expenses rising, more boxes to tick and hoops to hop through.

    DON'T DO IT. Either train in another area, move to Canada or Australia or do locums and let somebody else take on all the worry.

    General Practice is on the way out and I am lucky to be retiring in 10 weeks and 2 days time.

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  • This is a very unfortunate situation.Most of the doctors have spent more than 10 years training to be a good GP.Do you want the UK GPs to be replaced by poorly trained doctors from outside the UK.?Are we not interested in the care provided to our residents? The BMA has to work very hard to save the doctors from this mess.

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  • Why can't GP's collectively tell the Government where to get off? Threaten to disengage from all NHS contracts and bill the NHS for the care they provide. We are self-employed after all.
    Many of us have had threats from the PCT's re withdrawal of PMS contracts. Well, why not tell them the above? Are you strong enough? Collectively you could be very powerful politically. Has the BMA got its orchids in place?

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  • Now is the time for all GPs to become genuine NHS employees and take a salary for the work they do. It would also validate their right to an NHS Pension - rather dubious that self employed businessmen do not make their own pension arrangements like everybody else. Buy up the estates to fill the pension pot. schedule care at GP level over a shift system covering 24 hours - reduce hospital admissions as a bi-product. The brave new world!

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  • I think these comments are playing into the governments hands and it is the end of the traditional general practice as we know it.
    Th NHS is already a market and I, as a young GP, will happily leave as a GP partner, maybe do some locum work work. Essentially, if the NHS gets any worse, my view will be f*** the NHS - I'm setting up a private company to take on all these AQP contracts and cherry pick private work - let the CCGs/NHS CB sort out practices - the patients will suffer but its getting to a point where I dont give a crap.
    Its a sad state for doctors to be thinking like this but thats thanks to Cameron and Lansley - well done!

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  • Over the years general practitioner have worked like donkeys. Followed every new change with fear that if gp's do not do it they will get somebody else to do it. It time to let government get " the other" to their dirty free unrewarded work. Enough, there is no reward in anything you do neither from the public or government.

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