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One in four GP partners has considered handing back their contract

Exclusive More than a quarter of GP partners have considered handing back their NHS contract in the past 12 months.

The findings, based on a Pulse survey of nearly 500 GP partners, found that 27% of respondents had reached a point where they did not want to continue; 71% said they had not; while 2% said they did not know.

GP partners told Pulse the factors bringing them to the brink of resignation included trouble recruiting GPs, unmanageable workload pressures, concerns about premises costs and fears over litigation.

The BMA’s GP Committee said the ‘high’ proportion of GP partners wishing to quit put the very ‘foundation of the NHS at risk’.

Last month, Pulse revealed that pressure on GPs have led to 450 surgeries closing in the last five years, with 1.3m patients faced with attending a new location.

Meanwhile, the GPC said that more than 600 GP practices will close in England by 2022 if the Government fails to increase funding for general practice.

The Prime Minister announced a £20bn NHS funding increase over the next five years last week, however a spending plan for the extra cash has yet to be finalised.

However, ahead of the announcement health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said the long-term funding plan must have earmarked funding for boosting primary care capacity.

Dr Maria Carrasco, a GP partner in Surrey, said there are days when she thinks ‘I cannot actually do this anymore’.

As a single-hander she is struggling with recruiting doctors and thinks GPs are being unfairly scapegoated for the crisis in the NHS.

She said: ‘I am finding it really hard to recruit a salaried GP because I think it’s more attractive for GPs to be locums. But that is not sustainable.’

She added: ‘Scapegoating GPs for the NHS crisis is unfair but that is what is happening and taking a massive toll on the profession and morale – a big reason why so many are leaving.’

Dr Sarah Hood, a GP in Bedfordshire, said she had ‘given serious consideration to handing back my contract for a number of reasons’, including ‘precarious practice finances’, and uncertainty over the future of the GMS contract.

She said: ‘There are no rewards for running a quality practice. Despite achieving a 97% patient satisfaction rating, having low referrals and under-budget prescribing, the only way [my practice] can access resilience funding is to apply for financial support in the event of a merger.

‘Understandably job satisfaction is wearing thin and you begin to question the merits of working yourself into an early grave.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: ‘To see such a high proportion of GPs, according to this poll, considering handing back their contracts is of little surprise given current workload pressures being experience by GPs and particularly GP partners.

‘While general practice struggles with increased demand, workforce shortages and stagnating budgets, GP partners face all of the added stresses and risks associated with buying into a small business, managing the practice premises and recruiting staff.’

An NHS England spokesperson declined to comment on the survey results but highlighted the review currently taking place of the GP partnership model.

Dr Vautrey said the BMA will be feeding in to that review ‘to ensure the core principles behind general practice are preserved’, as the demise of partnership would threathen the NHS’s future.

He said: ‘As more GPs turn away from the partnership model, in which doctors have a direct and longstanding connection with local communities and are on the shop floor of their own businesses every day seeing and treating people face to face, puts the very foundation on which the rest of the NHS is built at risk.’

He added: ‘More widely, as seen by the most recent workforce statistics, general practice is in the depths of a recruitment and retention crisis and the Government and NHS England need to take urgent action to make the profession an attractive and sustainable career choice once again.’

Chief executive of Wessex LMC Dr Nigel Watson has been appointed to chair the review, which will look into how the partnership model needs to evolve in the modern NHS.

The news comes as a report by former Labour health minister Professor Lord Ara Darzi recommended that the NHS offers all existing GP partners to become employees of the NHS.

Have you at any point over the past 12 months considered handing your contract back?

Yes: 27%

No: 71%

Don’t know: 2%

The survey was launched on 12 April 2018, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 28 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to our readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for a Ninja Coffee Bar as an incentive to complete the survey. A total of 462 GP partners answered this question.