Cookie policy notice

By continuing to use this site you agree to our cookies policy below:
Since 26 May 2011, the law now states that cookies on websites can ony be used with your specific consent. Cookies allow us to ensure that you enjoy the best browsing experience.

This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPs get increasingly negative about career prospects with age, says study

GPs become more negative about their career prospects as they get older, according to a new study published in the BJGP

The responses to a questionnaire, filled in by 20,940 respondents (66.2% of whom were GPs), showed that GPs were positive about their career prospects, but this decreased with time since graduation. This trend was not seen in hospital doctors.

The researchers from the University of Oxford found that three to five years after graduation, 86.3% of GP trainees were positive about their career prospects (compared to 52.9% of surgical trainees.

But 12-24 years after graduation, only 60.2% of GPs were positive about their career prospects (compared to 76.6% of surgeons).

According to the authors ‘these changes were more noticeable among male GPs than among female GPs.’

Overall for all age groups, GPs were less positive about their career prospects than hospital doctors: 66.2% of GPs felt positive about their career prospects, compared to 74.2% of hospital doctors.

Female GPs were more positive about their career prospects than male GPs, which was the opposite for hospital doctors.

The questionnaire was sent to doctors graduating in selected years between 1974 and 2008. For the question on career prospects, respondents were asked to rate their agreement with the statement ‘My career prospects are good’.

This comes amid increasing difficulty retaining older GPs, with pensionsburnout and overwork key reasons why many GPs are retiring earlier, although NHS England has boosted funding to the GP retainer scheme to try and reduce this issue.

Readers' comments (9)

  • '12-24 years after graduation', '60.2% of GPs were positive about their career prospects'

    This seems a surprisingly high level of cheerfulness - but after 20 years those who can find something else to do (other than being a GP), will be doing something else or planning to do something else soon. I believe that statisticians call this survivor bias.

    Similarly, it may be that the allegedly high levels of female euphoria with the job reflects the high rate of departure from GP life for women under 40. Only the rabid optimists can cope.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • ...indeed rather than interviewing the 'rabid optimists' still in the job after 20 years it would actually be more relevant to talk to the sane ones who didn't make it that far, leaving much earlier. As noted above if you've been in a job 20 years you've got a bunch of folk who have self selected to stay...despite this it is indeed surprising that 40% of these hardy folk are apparently miserable.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • A working definition of "career prospects" might be the chance of success in the future?
    How can a 50 yo GP have "Career prospects"??
    You have a job that you can wit your eyes shut but everyone wants to inspect/appraise you.
    You can work harder & harder each year in a vain attempt to maintain your income.
    What a stupid question to ask, what do the researchers actually mean? Do they explain??

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'm very optimistic hanging on to reach the age when I can maximise my lump sum, retire and then turn into a vegetable .

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • i used to be very pessimistic about the future and my career as a GP but im not any longer....


    because i DITCHED THE COUNTRY COMRADES!!!!!!

    things have never been better!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • One man's negativity is another man's realism.

    One woman's optimism is another woman's delirium.

    All about perspective as ever. A better question for the clipboard wallahs; what happens to the 1 in 5 GP's who leave UK practice before they turn 40?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • One is deluding oneself if true success is looked at in terms of your job or your income alone.. Money only buys comforts but not happiness... Anyone who looks at Gen practice for happiness will, in the current climate get used and abused to an early grave... Are you healthy, are your family happy and looked after, do you have good faith in God.. are you planning for life after death...
    Take what you need ...and be grateful to God and be happy

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Career prospects will only improve when GP,s
    are truly self sufficient truly independent businesses
    Where quality is rewarded
    and market forces determine viability and success

    Rather than glorified state employees

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "Stuck in a rut".... Try locuming ... Variable locations practices travel etc
    The excitement of not Knowing if there will be work ...or where it will be ...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

IMPORTANT: On Wednesday 7 December 2016, we implemented a new log in system, and if you have not updated your details you may experience difficulties logging in. Update your details here. Only GMC-registered doctors are able to comment on this site.