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More than half of GPs to take early retirement

The majority of GPs will take early retirement, with only 6% committing themselves to working until the age of 65, a new poll of 1,000 GPs has revealed.

An investigation by the BBC also found that one in five GPs believed that medical students were shunning general practice because of its standing within the profession, while a quarter believed it was due to the volume of consultations.

It comes as the deputy chair of the GPC told delegates at the Welsh LMCs conference in Cardiff that students are being told ‘50% of you are going to have to be GPs, and if you don’t work hard enough that’s where you’ll end up’.

This follows revelations from Pulse that applications for general practice have hit their lowest number for six years, since figures have been recorded in this way.

The health secretary has said that hospital demand has been ‘taking money away from services like GPs, mental health and district nursing’ and that the Government is working to reverse this.

NHS England set out its 10-point strategy to boost GP numbers in January, offering incentives to retain older GPs, including reviewing current retainer schemes and investing in a new national scheme and how to incentivise experienced GPs to remain in practice, for examples via a funded mentorship scheme or offer portfolio careers.

The BBC poll – to be revealed tonight on its Inside Out programme – found that 25% of GPs said they will ‘definitely leave’ before the age of 65, while 30% said that will ‘probably leave’ before the retirement age.

A further 32% said they will ‘probably not leave’, while only 6% said they would ‘definitely not leave’ before the age of 65.

It also found that in Carlisle in Cumbria, where there is a particular recruitment crisis, one in three practices have vacancies

Pulse revealed last month that there had been a reduction of more than 6% in the number of applications for GP training.

The BBC poll asked GPs why medical students were rejecting general practice, and 27% – the largest amount – said it was because of the volume of consultations. One in five said it was because of general practice’s standing within the profession while the same amount said it was due to the working hours.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, GP and BMA education, training and workforce committee chair, who features in tomorrow’s Inside Out programme, said: ‘The BMA has been warning for some time that there is a real and serious GP workforce crisis emerging across the country. GP services are under unprecedented workload pressure, with practices seeing record numbers of patients – 40 million more annually than in 2008 – against a background of mounting bureaucracy and falling resources.

‘This has led to a significant drop in GP morale, and, as the BBC’s survey shows, has led to a worrying number of senior GPs choosing to retire early or work abroad, at the same time that general practice faces a serious shortfall in the number of doctors choosing to train as GPs.

‘In my own practice, two established GPs and one newly qualified GP have moved to Canada and Australia since last summer due to the unsustainable daily pressure facing GPs.’ 

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC: ‘Hospitals have been struggling to meet increasing demand and that has taken money away from services like GPs, mental health and district nursing.

‘That was wrong and we’re moving to correct that. The centre of gravity in the NHS for 66 years has been big hospitals.

‘We need to change that and make the centre of gravity general practice and out-of-hospital care.’