More than four in ten GPs who have quit the NHS did so due to burnout, a GMC survey of doctors leaving the profession has revealed.
The GMC surveyed 13,158 doctors – a quarter of whom were GPs – who had previously practised in the UK and quit between 2004 and 2019 on their reasons for leaving the NHS
It showed that 42.8% of GPs reported burnout as a reason for leaving even before the pandemic, while only 22.2% of hospital specialists said it was the reason they quit.
GPs who quit were also less likely to return to work than other doctors, with only 9% likely to return compared to 25% of specialists, 32% of trainees and 35% of ‘other’.
The GMC added the caveat that this could be due to a higher proportion of GPs leaving because of retirement, rather than to pursue other roles.
The research, carried out in collaboration with Health Education England, the Northern Irish Department of Health, NHS Education for Scotland and Health Education and Improvement Wales, also found that:
- GPs were much more likely to experience worry about errors/medico-legal risks (24.3%) compared with specialists (9.6%);
- GPs and specialists had similar levels of dissatisfaction (37.3% vs 36%);
- GPs were less likely to report bullying as an issue (2.7%) than specialists (7.2%).
The research clearly shows wellbeing issues are ‘driving doctors out of the service’, said acting GMC chair Professor Dame Carrie MacEwen last week, during a speech for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow conference.
She said: ‘There’s no doubt that Covid-19 struck a hammer blow to doctors’ wellbeing. But while these issues have been exacerbated by the pandemic, they were not created by it.’
‘There’s a vicious cycle at play here. Staff shortages exacerbate existing pressures, leading to more stress and doctors voting with their feet,’ she added.
It comes as just one in six GP Covid returners said they would stay on, despite thousands of GPs being given temporary registration by the GMC at the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, a major study found GP retention is in long-term decline as GP turnover has steadily increased over the last decade.
More than 10,000 people signed a BMA petition last month demanding that GP practices receive the funding they require in order to ‘urgently increase the number of GPs’.