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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.’