This site is intended for health professionals only

GPs most ‘discontented’ among UK doctors, GMC survey finds

GPs most ‘discontented’ among UK doctors, GMC survey finds

GPs are the most likely to experience ‘deep discontent’ practising medicine in the UK, according to a new GMC survey on doctors moving abroad.

The survey of more than 3,000 doctors explored the reasons doctors might leave the UK, and found that more than a fifth of GPs are very or fairly likely to move abroad in the next 12 months.

Separate GMC data also showed that approximately 4,000 doctors who gave up their licence to practise or left the medical register last year cited moving abroad as one of their reasons for leaving. 

Overall, as part of the survey, almost a third of doctors practising in the UK said they are likely to leave within the year, which means the country could lose around 96,000 doctors. 

Based on survey responses, the researchers split doctors into six groups, with GPs making up the largest portion (26%) of the ‘most negative’ category. 

Those experiencing ‘deep discontent’ are doctors who are ‘dissatisfied on multiple fronts’ – with the ‘political environment’, the NHS system, and the impact of this on their wellbeing. 

The GMC-commissioned report on the survey, completed by IFF Research, argued that pay is ‘one of the most important issues raised by doctors’, and this was ‘particularly acute’ among those experiencing ‘deep discontent’.

Over three-quarters of doctors reported feeling ‘under-valued professionally’ which demonstrated a concern with pay.

The report urged the Government to work on retention strategies focused on ‘working conditions and the UK’s competitive position’.

Categories for doctors’ experiences

  • Deep discontent: The most negative segment, these doctors were negative about all aspects of UK practice. This segment has the highest proportion of doctors saying they are likely to leave within 12 months.
  • System sceptics: Disillusioned with the UK healthcare system and hindered in their ability to perform their role…they were concerned about the erosion of the status of the profession, lack of investment in training and poor remuneration.
  • Burnt-out: UK practice has made these doctors exhausted. Their main issue with UK practice is around its effect on their personal wellbeing and their motivation to leave is for work-life balance and improved quality of life.
  • Mobile career developers: This segment is generally neutral about working in the UK but are highly ambitious and obstacles to their career progression, plus family and cultural ties to other countries, are causing them to consider practising abroad.
  • Open to opportunity: The UK system has served doctors in this segment well personally and they have achieved their career goals. They are the least likely to say they will move to practise abroad but would consider it for a change of scene and a new challenge.
  • Happy in the UK: The most positive of all the segments – a very content group, both personally and professionally – though they often have roots elsewhere which provides good reasons for them to return to their origin country during their career (for family or cultural reasons).

While GPs made up the largest portion of the most negative group, they also made up the largest portion (30%) of those who are ‘open to opportunity’ and feel the UK system has served them well. 

The report recommended targeting the top three, most negative categories as a priority, as they account for over half of doctors practising in the UK and this would have the ‘greatest chance of significant impact to the workforce’.

The GMC sought to caveat this data with evidence that there is often a ‘gap between intention and action’. 

Chief executive Charlie Massey said the report’s findings are a ‘stark reminder’ of the challenges facing UK healthcare systems. 

‘Though the number of doctors actually leaving to practise abroad in 2023 was comparably low, these findings are a warning to all should conditions fail to improve,’ he said. 

Mr Massey added: ‘It’s much easier to dissuade someone from leaving by acting upon concerns, than to persuade them to return.

‘There are no easy fixes, but these findings highlight the urgency with which we must act. We must work together as a system to make informed changes so the talented professionals keeping our nation well feel supported to continue working in the UK.’

BMA representative body chair and workforce lead Dr Latifa Patel said that the figures are ‘incredibly worrying’.

She added: ‘That so many doctors say they are looking to leave for overseas is not surprising, when we consider the immense pressures healthcare staff are under in an overwhelmed service battling huge workforce shortages.

‘While current policy attention appears almost exclusively on hiring more doctors, there is clearly a desperate need to also stop the flow of doctors leaving the health service prematurely.’

RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said that the whole health service is facing ‘serious retention issues’, and general practice has been ‘especially badly affected’.

She said: ‘We are seeing good GPs either looking to work abroad or leaving the profession altogether: a recent survey from the RCGP found that 37% of GPs already thought it was unlikely that they would be working in general practice in the next five years.

‘This validates the GMC research published today that thousands of doctors are considering leaving UK practice and needs to be taken very seriously indeed by the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care. Urgent action to promote and encourage retention of our GPs is needed, and needed now.’

A major Pulse investigation last year looked at workforce issues in general practice, uncovering the reasons why GPs are looking to move abroad, reduce hours or take other routes out of the profession.

Last year, the Prime Minister claimed that doctors leaving the NHS to work in Australia is ‘not as widespread’ as people assume, and a mandatory tie-in is therefore not necessary.

But the GMC chief Mr Massey had previously warned that the UK must stop ‘haemorrhaging’ GPs, who are ‘voting with their feet’ to go work abroad.

The regulator’s research in 2022 had found that, while many doctors were experiencing burnout, there were some specific issues in primary care driving GPs to migrate.

A recent BMA survey found that nearly 73% of GP trainees are experiencing burnout and stress as ‘a direct result’ of their clinical work.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Turn out The Lights 12 April, 2024 1:19 pm

Done already reduce my commitment by 2/3rds 2 weeks AGO.My own unnegotiable irreversible industrial action.

Antonia Moore 12 April, 2024 2:07 pm

Spending a bit of every interaction apologising for the impossible, failed system; seeing such complexity that I long for a pt w rash or sore throat to walk in; untangling what’s been already done for someone at pharmacy, walk-in, A&E; spending hours over contracted time; never clearing the decks; continuity gone….
Individual patient interactions stimulating and why I do this but the overwhelm is real.

Not on your Nelly 12 April, 2024 3:18 pm

Most GPs I know now work less than they did 5 years ago even If staying in the UK. Most have dropped 2 sessions each if not more. Many more would go if possible and not tied down by family commitments or children in the wrong time of school. Very sad state of the nhs. Blinders on the government doesn’t help.

Northern Trainer 12 April, 2024 3:23 pm

Sadly Antonia you have described exactly how I feel. Our patients are the only reason I haven’t packed in completely yet but I’ve never been as close. “morale injury” doesn’t come close to how devastated I am at this dismantling of what great service we had crafted.

So the bird flew away 12 April, 2024 4:34 pm

In addition to the usual work/load reasons, the GMC’s and the NHS complaints procedure’s industrialisation of patient behaviour of “gripes and moans” must also be a factor contributing to the “discontentedness” of doctors. Not to mention the requirements of the largely unproductive appraisal process. Their survey should have included questions about their role in GPs discontentedness.

Some Bloke 12 April, 2024 8:28 pm

Never felt guilty for the mess that’s not of my creation. Never apologise, but advise on real state of healthcare here

win win 12 April, 2024 11:20 pm

There is no suggestion on these so called leaders will fix the problem.🤔

Genelle Harkins 13 April, 2024 10:03 am

Demand is high, complaints are frequent, and it does not help at all, that we are vilified by the media. There is no respect for our profession at all. It’s extremely demoralising.

John Graham Munro 13 April, 2024 1:30 pm

@ Genelle———-they don’t disrespect us from their hospital bed

Dr No 13 April, 2024 1:39 pm

Merely a sign Tory policy is working as intended. We are supposed to be pissed off and leaving. They want us to go. We are expensive and overtrained for the job that the Tories think we do.

Aun M Raza 13 April, 2024 9:50 pm

GPs working environment is too toxic, now Patients don’t respect doctors Patients treat them as their paid servants . GMC never focussed on Doctor rights in working zone. There are no incentives for trainees in current GP land , better to know more about opportunities in Canada, Australia, UAE.

Andrew Fripp 13 April, 2024 10:22 pm

The situation is pretty simple and patients are going to get the NHS they pay for.

If we do not get a rise in line with inflation, and comparable to what consultants are getting, then patients will have to go where the money and the doctors are, which means hospital and ED.

Out of here And happy 15 April, 2024 7:01 pm

How is it “ok” to give GPs a ridiculous pay rise, when we’ve never strikes ,when the strikers got a massively high pay rise in comparison
Oh yeah …. It’s because we have never strikes

Out of here And happy 15 April, 2024 7:05 pm

Sorry meant
How is it “ok” to give GPs a ridiculous pay rise, when we’ve never striked,when the strikers got a massively high pay rise in comparison
Oh yeah …. It’s because we have never striked