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More than a third of GPs considering early retirement within a year, BMA reveals


BMA and RCGP workload guidance


Well over a third of GPs (36%) are considering early retirement within the next 12 months, as doctors are overwhelmed by an ‘avalanche’ of workload hitting practices.

GP leaders warned that the situation, revealed via the BMA’s latest survey, is a ‘ticking time bomb’ and must function as a ‘wake-up call’ for the UK Government.

The news comes as Pulse has revealed that GPs are facing the worst burnout crisis for over a decade, with mounting workload leaving GPs working 11-hour days.

Meanwhile, a GP practice last week published a 16-page open letter to its patients after seeing demand double in recent months and inappropriate use of its services. 

And March data from NHS Digital revealed that GPs consulted a record-breaking number of patients last month.

Asked by the BMA about their plans for the next year:

  • 36% (524) of 1,457 GP respondents across the UK said they were considering taking early retirement
  • More than half (51%) added that they were now more likely to reduce their hours.
  • Around a fifth (21.5%) said they were thinking of leaving the NHS for another career, while 22% said they were considering a ‘career break’.
  • More than half (55%) of the GPs responding to the survey said workload was one of the factors that ‘best explains’ their reasons for changing their career plans and 45% cited their personal wellbeing.
  • And almost seven in 10 GPs (68%) are ‘not at all’ or ‘not very’ confident that their practice can manage patient demand as normal NHS services are resumed.

The figures show a major shift in GP plans over the last ten months compared with a similar BMA survey conducted in June, in which 15% of GPs said they either ‘plan to leave the NHS, retire early [or] work elsewhere once normal services are resumed’.

One Yorkshire GP told the BMA they’ve had colleagues ‘overwhelmed’ and  ‘in tears’ over the ‘avalanche of work that has hit general practice’.

They said: ‘In my more than 20 years of training and working in the NHS, I have been closest to leaving the job that I love in the last few months. 

‘There are various reasons for it, but it mainly comes down to lack of confidence in a Government that failed the public and profession during the pandemic, and is now claiming the success of the profession’s vaccination delivery as their own in order to hide their failings.‘

The anonymous GP added: ‘If things don’t change in the next few weeks, I do worry that many colleagues will leave the profession, not because they have failed, but the Government and the system failed them.’

Another GP told the BMA: ‘I do two clinical days and go home a zombie. In the last few weeks, I’ve sat at home, once or twice until two in the morning, concerned I may have missed something. 

‘The pressure during the day is phenomenal, more than I have ever experienced and several GPs are now saying the last month is the hardest they have ever worked. Many are looking to take their pension and go.’

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the findings ‘must act as a wake-up call to the UK Government’ and be treated with ‘the utmost urgency’.

He said: ‘General practice, like much of the NHS, is currently facing unprecedented pressures as we battle to keep patients safe during the pandemic on top of a growing backlog of care.

‘Our calls must be listened to, and our workforce truly valued. This means giving GPs the respite they need and access to proper breaks to ensure no more feel forced to leave a career they’ve worked so hard to achieve.’

And BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul added that the threat of a ‘mass exodus’ of NHS staff is a ‘ticking time bomb’ that the Government must act upon.

And NHS England’s primary care director Dr Nikki Kanani acknowledged earlier in the month that general practice is ‘feeling really difficult at the moment’.

Meanwhile, Pulse revealed last week that almost 800 practices have shut over the last eight years.

READERS' COMMENTS [10]

Iain Chalmers 4 May, 2021 11:22 am

Already 1/2 time and best decision possible, other 1/2 will be gone ASAP and will be another best decision IMHO

David Mummery 4 May, 2021 11:52 am

If all the numerous ‘managerial GPs’ or ‘executive GPs’ who see very few patients and spend loads of time paying themselves lots of money to sit in endless stupid meetings wanted to help out with the clinical work : that might make a difference

David jenkins 4 May, 2021 12:25 pm

get out !

come to locumland, where you can decide when, where, for whom, and for how long, you want to work. days off and holidays when you want. no enforced work over bank holidays “because the rules have changed due to circumstances”.

no silly drivel from managers, no silly admin, no silly meetings – just go to work, deal with patients like you were trained to do, and leave all the admin to others who enjoy that sort of thing.

no non nhs work, no silly “ganfyd” requests, no silly interruptions from nhs administrators (with whom you no longer have to deal), get paid accurately (and on time), no silly “post payment verification” or cqc drivel.

if practices mess you about, just don’t go back there – but in 13 years i haven’t been mucked about once.

“would you like a cup of tea before you start ? can i press you to a biscuit ?” was how i was greeted in a surgery last friday !!

Vinci Ho 4 May, 2021 12:32 pm

Remember this song with original version from Martika and later one by Eminem ?
‘’Step by step, heart to heart
Left right left, we all fall down
Like toy soldiers
Bit by bit, torn apart
We never win but the battle wages on
For toy soldiers
I’m supposed to be the soldier who never blows his composure
Even though I hold the weight of the whole world on my shoulders
I am never supposed to show it
My crew ain’t supposed to know it’’

While Martika was originally referred to drug addiction of a friend , Eminem was actually talking about expendable ‘solders’
Sigh ….. I suppose this is our (GP) song as well , somehow we were ‘addicted’ to this profession and became disposable as far as the way being treated by the government was concerned .
Yes , some of you might be cynical to say that we actually asked for it and should deserve no sympathy and mercy ……..

John Graham Munro 4 May, 2021 1:02 pm

To all my beleaguered colleagues———it’s your summer holidays soon, so stop moaning——more robust and stable locums are back like David Jenkins and me

Patrufini Duffy 4 May, 2021 1:32 pm

They’ve already left. You just can’t see them on your workforce data.

John Glasspool 5 May, 2021 8:28 am

How I HATE these stories that pop up regularly. Anyone can “consider” leaving. It’s only when enough do that the government will notice, and given that the current workforce has coped with Covid and provided GMS, I can’t see the government improving the Ts & Cs anytime soon. Wife and I left early and it was the best decision we ever made.
Manwhile, those still working at the coal face will line up as usual and consume any bucket of faeces the government choses to present them with. Sad, but true.
I note Wessex LMCs website said that this year would be “The year of General Practice”. O, how I laughed!

John Evans 5 May, 2021 11:53 am

The model is dysfunctional and should concern all. It was set in stone by the new GMS contract with the locked in pay freeze and blank cheques i.e. performance related pay and the basket of enhanced services. Workload increase, part-time working, shift to non-partners, income constraint and pension tax penalties will limit GP capacity. It is unknown whether the increase in medical training will compensate or even if GP friendly policy changes arise in due course. What is obvious is that there is going to be period of increased workload to be managed by a reduced capacity. The GPs have limited ability to manage demand so the ‘left behind’ will be working in a more hazardous and harmful environment. The public will be more concerned about their own health needs than the hazards that the GPs face. Is it too late to consider a vote on handing back contracts – GPs lack unity and the US private providers have been allowed a foothold so I suspect it is. Need to protect yourself and consider retraining, emigrating or retiring. P.s. I speak from a comfortable position and have no financial interests to influence my advice. I just feel sorry for my soon to be ex colleagues.

Dave Haddock 5 May, 2021 1:36 pm

Just what is the point of the BMA? Another survey? ‘Thank god, we’re saved, it’s Surveyman here to rescue us in the nick of time . . “

Dave Haddock 5 May, 2021 1:54 pm

What we really need from the BMA is a fully costed alternative to working for the NHS, as with Denplan and the dentists. Perhaps Chambers, perhaps the Guernsey model. https://iea.org.uk/healthcare-lessons-from-guernsey/. Nothing will change as long as there are enough bums on NHS seats to keep a service, however crap, functioning.