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The waiting game

UK GPs more stressed and dissatisfied than international colleagues

UK GPs are among the most stressed and least satisfied in the profession within the developed world due to high workload, unsatisfactory pay and short consultation times, a study has found.

The Health Foundation report, which analysed a 2019 survey of 13,000 GPs across 11 developed countries, found that only France had lower levels of GP job satisfaction.

Just 6% of UK GPs reported feeling ‘extremely’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their overall workload – the lowest of any country surveyed.

Only Swedish GPs reported higher levels of stress. Six in 10 UK GPs said they find their job ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ stressful. The same survey, carried out in 2015, showed a similar figure, suggesting ‘little progress has been made in reducing GP stress,’ according to the Health Foundation.

The report highlighted increasing pressures as partly responsible. There are now 1,700 fewer qualified permanent full-time GPs than there were in 2015 when the then Government pledged to recruit an additional 5,000 into the workforce.

The shortage means the number of patients per GP has grown from 2,180 to 2,240 in the last year alone, ‘placing greater workload on practitioners,’ said the report.

Half of GPs said they plan to reduce their weekly hours in the next three years. While the percentage of GPs who said they plan to retire in the next three years has fallen since 2015 (from 17% to 11%), the number who plan to change careers has doubled to 15%.

Dr Rebecca Fisher, GP and co-author of the report, said: ‘These findings illustrate the pressures faced by general practice and the strain that GPs are under. Right now, the health system is in unprecedented territory and mobilising to meet the challenge of Covid-19.

‘Too many GPs are highly stressed and overburdened - to the point of wanting to leave the profession altogether.’

Only 3 in 10 reported being at all satisfied with the amount of time they have to spend with patients - significantly lower than with other countries surveyed. The average length of GP appointments in the UK is 11 minutes, compared with an average of 19 minutes in the other countries.

RCGP vice chair Dr Gary Howsam said: ‘It’s incredibly concerning that GPs in the UK are more dissatisfied with the job, on many levels, than family doctors in other countries. However, it comes as no surprise as general practice has been operating under immense resource and workforce pressure for some time.

‘We need more time with our patients. The College has called for 15-minute appointments as standard and longer for those patients who need it – but offering longer consultations means offering fewer and patients are already waiting too long for an appointment.

‘We need the Government to deliver their pledges of more funding for general practice and 6,000 more GPs as a matter of urgency – and we look to the forthcoming NHS People Plan for details on their strategy to tackle GP workload and retain our existing GP workforce, so that the NHS remains fit for the future.’


Readers' comments (7)

  • Any one expecting wonders from the "NHS People Plan"? Even before its released I predict a monumental FLOP just like other hyped hollywood films.

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  • RCGP just needs to say that 10 min appts are unsafe and the minimum time for a routine appt is 15 mins and 20 for an emergency one but the recommended time is 20 mins per patient. You are the governing body representing GPs after all. Its then between the BMA and the government how it gets paid for. Its your job to look after us and yet you fail us year after year. Its not our responsibility to take on extra workload - that is down to the government and their funding policies. Stop dumping the past failures to sort out this mess back on us, take responsibility and sort it out. that means RCGP, BMA and the DoH. You are, literally, killing doctors, otherwise. every 3 weeks a doctor commits suicide in the UK. its a national scandal.

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  • Our current extended hours consultations are now 15 minutes. 12 pts in 3hrs- pay rate is good too.
    Safer for pts and GP, and more professionally rewarding as have time to do things properly.
    Its the way to go.

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  • Hard to see how things can improve without more GPs
    The number of consultants seems to increase steadily but not GPs
    This imbalance must change or the only way is (melt)down

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  • Said it before and will keep saying it until the cows come home. Make appts min 15min, same hours, less patients, same pay. Results in less appts but more worker satisfaction and less stress. Job becomes more appealing, more FY2's apply for it as it becomes desirable, number of GP's increases, appointments increase problem solved and everyone happy.

    One issue is this is a longterm plan but as everyone knows NHSE and government only want quick fixes and private tenders so never going to happen. RCGP don't care - leadership only looking to get gongs and colouring book deals.

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  • Big surprise. CQC, GDPR, child protection, duty of candour, Bawa Garba etc. Risks signing hundreds of scripts. Multiple problems in 10 min and ever changing targets and contracts and now being used as cannon fodder to Covid 19. Who would not be stressed and want to leave?

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  • i wonder if doctors inany other country sign all these prescriptions witout reviewing the patient as we do here. when I worked in canaada patients came in for prescriptions so you would be paid. you might give a year of it if thas how long before next review or a month depending but never signing dozends of scripts of patients you may never have met as we do here. whay do we do this

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