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Trainees ‘shun partnerships’ in favour of locum work or emigration

Exclusive Just 6% of GPs in training practices say their registrar colleagues want to take partnership roles, due to concerns over pay and workload, a Pulse survey has revealed.

The survey of 253 GPs found that almost half of GPs have been told by their trainees that they want to into locum work, with 28% saying their trainees are looking to go abroad once they have completed their training.

GP trainers have said that there is a perception among registrars that locums earn more money than partners, without the extra stress and greater demands from various Government diktats.

GP trainee leaders said that this poll demonstrated that trainees were ‘acutely aware’ of the pressures facing general practice, but also demonstrated that locum or salaried work is increasingly being seen as a ‘positive career choice’.

There is currently little data on where trainees end up after finishing their programmes, although Wessex LMC carried out a survey this year of GPs in their region, which found that less than 50% of GPs being trained currently intend to join a practice when they finish training.

Pulse’s survey, which was carried out in July and was answered by 253 GPs working in training practices, revealed:

  • Only 6% said their trainees wanted to go into partnerships;
  • 49% said their trainees wanted to become locums;
  • 28% said their trainees wanted to go abroad
  • 30% said their trainees wanted to find a salaried post;
  • 4% said their trainees wanted to change career.

GPs have warned of a potential ‘brain drain’ of recruits to Australia, New Zealand and Canada, while Pulse has reported that practices are having to close because they cannot find anyone to become partners.

Dr Steven Colabella, a partner in central Manchester, said: ‘My interpretation of the general murmuring are that many feel the partnership profits have significantly decreased and more money can be made as a locum. 

‘The pressures and work load have increased that full-time is not possible for some doctors, making locum life more suitable.  The rumours of greener pastures in Australia or New Zealand (free houses, free cars, double the pay) makes them think about a year or two abroad.  How many will go, I’m not sure.’

Dr Alice Hodkinson, a GP in Essex, said: ‘It is the uncertainty about the job and seeing how we as partners are overworked and stressed. I don’t blame them at all for looking for more comfortable options. Mind you, I would still not be salaried. 

‘Also, we lost a partner to become a locum (again) because of uncertainties about the future of the practice and income. Locum income can be very high if you are prepared to travel.’

Dr Donna Tooth, chair of the GPC trainees subcommittee, said: ‘The results of this poll demonstrate that today’s trainees are acutely aware of the pressures facing general practice and are interested in a more diverse career path than past generations.  

‘The fact that eight out of ten are interested in being locums or salaried GPs does chime with other evidence that suggests there is a fundamental change going on within the GP workforce. For many, this is not just about the pressures of being a partner, but also the fact that many aspiring GPs regard being a locum or salaried GP as a positive career choice that offers the opportunity to focus on treating patients and maintaining their own worklife balance.’

This comes as the main political parties have committed to increasing the numbers of GPs being produced, with Labour leader Ed Miliband outling plans to put 8,000 more GPs into the system, while the Conservative Party has committed to training 5,000 new GPs a year by 2020.

Recent figures obtained by Pulse from HEE revealed that 12% of GP training positions were unfilled, and the survey of career intentions exacerbates the problems in long-term GP numbers.