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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Almost half of GPs plan to leave job or reduce hours within five years

Almost half of GPs in Northern Ireland are planning to either leave general practice or reduce the hours they work within the next five years, a survey has suggested.

The ComRes poll, commissioned by RCGP Northern Ireland, found that out of all GPs questioned, 3% planned to leave in the next year, 6% in the next two years and 18% in the next five years. Another 18% said they would stay but work reduced hours.

Almost all of the GPs questioned (99%) thought their workload had increased over the last five years and nine in ten (90%) said this had led to rising levels of fatigue with the job. An even larger amount, 94%, said morale had taken a hit.

The poll further showed that:

  • 15% think it unlikely their current practice is still open in ten years’ time;
  • 95% worry that a lack of resources available to general practice is putting patient care at risk;
  • 85% are worried they will miss something serious in patient consultations because of their workload;
  • 98% think that unless resources increase, GP waiting times will rise.

RCGP Northern Ireland said the poll made the ‘feelings of family doctors in Northern Ireland… very clear’ ahead of next week’s General Assembly elections.

In response, its chair Dr John O’Kelly called on the next health minister to ’reverse the negative trend’ and ’listen to GPs and invest in primary healthcare’.

He said: ’GPs are overworked, overtired and worried about being able to deliver sustainable, high quality health services to local communities in the future.’

Echoing calls made earlier this week by RCGP Scotland, Dr Kelly added that Northern Ireland should have its own version of NHS England’s General Practice Forward View.

He said: ’NHS England has recently backed general practice by increasing funding to almost 11% of the NHS budget. We need our politicians to commit to allocating this level of resource before we start to see practice closures and diminishing services across the entire region.’

Readers' comments (9)

  • did we not have similar results from a survey like this a few years ago but partners are still here i.e. it didn't happen then?

    i think it's mostly frustration from partners as to what they want to do but that's different from actually doing it.

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  • I'm 55 and a retiring principal this year. I really do not think that this is purely the rattling of sabres. Traditional GP workforce is currently approaching tipping point. I am pretty sure that this is a realistic view. I am very sad but that's that for me.

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  • I think that there is always an element of wishful thinking when you ask GPs about their future plans - but on a five year view - from where we are now - I believe that any figure less than 25% would be inaccurate.

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  • I will likely be dead before ever reaching the new expected retirement age of 68.

    It is highly likely many will be forced out through ill health or on the job stress/workload, from overdose of DOH diktats and persecution from CQC, GMC and revalidation.

    I used to enjoy the job, now just look at how long until mortgage paid and can just about survive until early retirement, and not starve on reduced pay outs!

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  • I am going now at 55. Last year has been horrendous. Good luck everyone look after yourselves

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  • 1 am approaching 58. In 3 months I am reducing to 3 days per week. In 2 years 1 retire. I have had enough. My health and sanity will not allow me to continue at this pace.

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  • A lot of my friends are GP partners, and a lot of them would have gone already if they could have done. Those who remain have reduced their hours and are planning their exit strategy.

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  • I left a year ago at 55 . Best thing I could have done . If you are in a similar position there is a great life after partnership . Happier , less stressed and working 2.5 days a week as a locum , to top up the pension , and keep my skills up . A year ago , working 10 sessions a week I was near burnout and heading for an early grave . A Mindfullness course helped , as did a big motorcycle trip . Good luck to you all

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  • Please consider the impending crisis about to hit County Fermanagh where up to 25% of current GPs intend to leave over the next 12 months, resilience is one when but when the service crumbles you just goota run for the hills my friends.............

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