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GPs increasingly less likely to move for a job, say researchers

GPs are increasingly choosing to practise closer to their family home, medical school and area of training, leading to a possible exacerbation of the current workforce crisis, conclude researchers.

Their study reveals that GPs were almost a third less likely than specialists to move after qualifying, and that younger doctors were more likely to stay closer to locations where they have previous ties than older colleagues.

The study comes after Pulse revealed a growing workforce crisis in some areas, with GP vacancy rates quadrupling in the past two years, and the researchers concluded the study showed that GPs had to ‘go where the jobs are’.

Published today in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the researchers looked at 45,616 doctors who qualified between 1974 and 2008 and surveyed them at various intervals after graduation.

The number of graduates overall who began a career in their region of training grew from 51% in 1974, to 78% in 2000, the last cohort to finish training. When broken down by speciality, GPs were less likely to move, with 68% of GPs obtaining their first career posts in the same region as their training, compared with 50% of hospital trainees.

The study concluded: ‘In summary, a substantial percentage of UK doctors stay reasonably close to their previous location, at least at the level of the region.

‘Doctors in younger generations are more likely than older generations to remain close to their previous location. Reduced mobility may not be sustainable: doctors have to go where the jobs are.’

Michael Goldacre, a professor of public health at the University of Oxford and the one of the authors of the study, told Pulse that these findings could make it harder for some areas to recruit GPs.

He said: ‘If we are right in our observations, there is an increasing tendency for GPs to want to stay local, an implication is that it may be more difficult to persuade doctors to move regions.’

There were two likely factors why GPs are more likely to stay put than specialists, he added.

‘One is that GP training is shorter than specialist training. If you know that you are changing jobs soon, there may be a greater tendency not to move far. Second, it is almost a cliché that GP tends to be a more family friendly career. People who are family oriented are more likely to want to settle.’


Pulse Live: 30 April - 1 May, Birmingham

Dr Chris Ferdinand, GP in London and vice-chair RCGP AiT/First 5 Committee, will be looking at how to develop your career in the new NHS at Pulse Live, Pulse’s new two-day annual conference for GPs, practice managers and primary care managers, will cover the latest developments in telehealth.

Pulse Live offers practical advice on key clinical and practice business topics, as well as an opportunity to debate the future of the profession, and a top range of speakers includes NICE chair designate Professor David Haslam, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey and the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the House of Commons health committee.

To find out more and book your place, please click here.