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One in five GPs under 30 quit the profession last year

One in five GPs under 30 quit the profession last year

More than one in five GPs aged under 30 quit the profession last year, ‘worrying’ new data has revealed.

In all, 21.6% fully-qualified GPs aged under 30 left in the 12 months leading up to December 2022, an analysis of NHS Digital data showed – up from 6.8% in March 2021, when retention was at its highest.

It also showed that more than one in 10 (11.4%) of fully-qualified young GPs aged between 30-35 quit in the 12 months leading to December 2022.

The Institute for Government, which analysed the data, said the findings were ‘worrying for the future of the GP workforce’. The report also said the increase in the youngest GPs leaving could explain ‘why higher GP trainee numbers are not translating into more fully qualified, permanent GPs’. 

The data showed:

·      The most recent overall leaver rate for qualified full time equivalent (FTE) GPs was 8.8% in the 12 months to December 2022.

·      This has risen from the 12 months up to June 2021 – when it stood at 6.5% – which is the lowest point during the pandemic.

·      GPs aged between 40 and 49 have consistently had the lowest leaver rate, which stood at 5.9% in the 12 months to December, with much less variation over the last six years.

·      However, in the age group 55-59, the attrition rate was over one in 10 (11.2%).

This comes at a time when the number of fully-qualified GPs has fallen by 7% to 27,375 since 2016, while the number of registered patients at GP practices has increased by 7% in the same period. 

The IfG report further warned that, as it stands, the Government is unlikely to achieve the target set out in the autumn of guaranteeing a GP appointment for patients within 14 days.

The report said: ‘In September the Government, then headed by Liz Truss, announced an ambition for every patient to see a GP within 14 days. The Sunak government re-committed to this ambition in the autumn statement at the same time as providing the NHS with a further £3.3bn funding per year for 2023/24 and 2024/25 – though general practice will receive only a portion of this increase.

‘It is, however, unclear what impact that money will have on helping primary care achieve the Government’s three manifesto promises that relate to the service: 50 million more appointments, recruiting an additional 26,000 direct patient care staff, and hiring 6,000 more GPs.

‘The Government has admitted that the latter of these is unachievable, which casts doubt on the likelihood of meeting its stated goal in the autumn statement of improving appointment access.’

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Commenting on the findings that young GPs are leaving in droves, RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne suggested there ‘are many factors behind this worrying trend’.

She said: ‘Some may feel over-burdened by the responsibility of a partnership, some may find it difficult to balance caring responsibilities with practice, and we know that many GPs leave before they had planned to because of burn out caused by unsustainable workload and workforce pressures.

‘We are told by GP trainees that they see the workload borne by their trainers and other GPs in the practice, and they don’t want a lifetime of working in this way.’

In response, Professor Hawthorne called for a ‘properly resourced and revitalised’ workforce.

She added: ‘That’s why the College is calling for a review, revamp and expansion of current retention initiatives and approaches so that GPs at all stages of their careers can be supported to remain in the workforce.

The RCGP has previously warned that unless conditions improve in general practice, the profession could lose a further 19,000 GPs over the next five years.

Last week, Government plans emerged to fix ‘chronic’ staff shortages by doubling medical school places and training doctors directly on the job via apprenticeships. 

A study published last month found that the high turnover of GPs has been linked to more A&E attendances by patients, with researchers from the University of Manchester highlighting a ‘desperate need to maximise retention’. 

England GPs joiners and leavers
Full-time equivalent, December 2021 – December 2022
Leavers (nr) Joiners (nr) Leavers % Joiners %
Qualified Permanent GPs (excludes GPs in Training Grades & Locums) 2,337 2,102 8.8% 8.0%
Under 30 40 123 21.6% 67.8%
30-34 304 693 11.4% 28.2%
35-39 394 471 8.7% 10.5%
40-44 296 321 6.3% 6.9%
45-49 243 219 5.4% 4.8%
50-54 238 133 6.2% 3.4%
55-59 402 83 11.2% 2.4%
60-64 258 29 16.3% 1.8%
65-69 97 9 16.9% 1.5%
70 and over 58 6 11.7% 1.3%
Unknown 7 14 6.2% 15.9%
Source: NHS Digital



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

Turn out The Lights 28 February, 2023 9:44 am

Extremely worrying.Spin this one NHSE.As leaver likely to accelerate as they breach the LTA as they reach their 50s.

ian owen 28 February, 2023 10:10 am

where do they go? Abroad? Other medical jobs? Quit the profession? Or locums (I guess the latter: it isn’t counted in the numbers, Ltd co = more money in pocket and donkey’s years before needing to fund the pension and hit the LTA)

Anonymous 28 February, 2023 1:14 pm

My colleagues from abroad are open about it. They are here to get their ILR so their kids can get the passport. Later they are planning to move to Canada or Australia.

Foundation doctors don’t really care about rushing into consultancy anymore.

I am seeing more and more locums.

When patients complain they are struggling to see the same doctor twice, I don’t even to try to apologise anymore. I’m saying it’s the new norm.

Some" Bloke 28 February, 2023 1:56 pm

absolute numbers for this cohort are too small to mean anything

Anthony Gould 28 February, 2023 2:25 pm

Plenty of MPs though
Maybe GPs need the same terms of service and benefits or maybe just their value recognised by MPs and the need to retain and reward them

Truth Finder 28 February, 2023 3:47 pm

Guess the GP bashing has worked. I tell patients now there is a National shortage as terms and conditions abroad are better. They actually value their doctors. Good luck to those waiting lists. It won’t come down anytime soon. BMA, take us private! People are fed up with the bashing and micro management.

Andrew F 28 February, 2023 5:26 pm

I tell frustrated patients to write to their MP because we are delivering as many appointments as we can afford. If the want a better service, they need to engage in politics.

Dave Haddock 28 February, 2023 7:38 pm

Dentist numbers up again; but dentists are not obliged to work for the NHS.

C Ovid 1 March, 2023 12:21 pm

A good quote from a GP in The Economist : I tell myself that this must be the level of nhs funding that the British electorate wants. Worth a read:
About time the public decided what it wants.

David jenkins 1 March, 2023 12:39 pm

no surprises here !

the young ones are leaving because they are sick of the way things are going, and want to get out before they get sucked into the whirlpool they can see.

the over 50’s are getting out because they’ve had enough, realise they are mortal, and have got a bit of financial buffer to help them survive while the go and sort out some other way of making ends meet.

those between 40 and 50 are stuck in the whirpool – they have mortgages, and offspring that are still in full time education. so they CAN’T get out……………….at the moment !

however, they won’t be in the whirlpool for ever, and eventually they will also be able to leave. this will be a lot sooner than they, or the government, think unless the pension anomalies are rectified.

David Banner 1 March, 2023 1:05 pm

So either they’re a bunch of lightweights, or the job is crap. Hopefully someone in power will deduce the correct answer to that conundrum before it’s too late.

David Church 1 March, 2023 4:46 pm

There are 3 times as many Joiners as Leavers under 30. (in the table above)
So all we need to do is increase the number leaving under age 30 to about 5,000; and that will equate to 15,000 Joiners.
Problem sorted.
Can I have a big cach prize from Government for that?

Fernando Arostegui-Novales 4 March, 2023 1:41 pm

@ David Church “There are 3 times as many Joiners as Leavers under 30. (in the table above)
So all we need to do is increase the number leaving under age 30 to about 5,000; and that will equate to 15,000 Joiners.
Problem sorted.” I may suffer from HOMERSIMPSONitis but I do not get your drift; or is it IRONY?. How INCREASING “leavers” sorts out the diminishing GP numbers?

Jamal Hussain 30 March, 2023 1:45 pm

I’m surprised they haven’t brought in indentured servitude. Forcing UK medical graduates to serve a minimum of 10 years in the NHS or face jail for the remainder of the term, in Somalia.
There was a big push of the narrative that doctors were ungrateful for all the system did to train them up.