Survey shows five out of 10 family doctors tempted to quit NHS

Findings paint vivid picture of health professions at breaking point and highlight risk of an exodus of staff from the NHS

Five out of 10 family doctors say they are tempted to quit general practice due to the impact of working during the pandemic, according to a new survey.

It is one of several stark findings on the impact of the second wave of Covid-19 from a UK-wide survey of more than 2,500 members of the medical defence organisation, MDDUS.

The survey paints a vivid picture of health professions at breaking point and highlights the real risk of an exodus of staff from the NHS. It found that:

  • More than four out of 10 (45%) of health professionals are more stressed now than they were during the first wave of the pandemic

  • Four out of 10 (42%) are more anxious

  • More than half (51%) are considering quitting their profession or retiring early

  • Nearly half (48%) are now more concerned about the potential for legal and regulatory action than in the first wave, and

  • Almost four in 10 (37%) GPs are finding remote consultations with patients very or extremely challenging

The heavy toll Covid-19 is taking on clinicians’ wellbeing and morale is despite 55% seeing their workplaces as now being better prepared than in the first wave.

The survey by MDDUS, which represents the professional interests of 50,000 doctors and dentists across the UK, shows GPs are particularly hard hit. More than six out of 10 (63%) are now more concerned about the risk of a legal or regulatory action than in the first wave of the pandemic.

Of this number, nearly eight out of 10 (76%) said they were considering leaving general practice completely.

Chris Kenny, CEO of MDDUS, said: “The pandemic has left doctors struggling to cope with patient care, their mental wellbeing and their desire to stay in the NHS for the long-term.

“The planning underway now to rebuild the UK must address this triple whammy of concerns to protect the National Health Service, its staff and their patients in the long-term. Most urgently there should be a step change in mental health support.

“Initiatives so far are welcome, but piecemeal in the face of the immediate pressures and long-term challenges our survey exposes.

“Regulators have responded to pressure from MDDUS and others to commit to ensuring fairness for doctors facing complaints in the wake of Covid-19. They must redouble their communication efforts and the UK’s prosecuting authorities must step up – as we first urged them nine months ago – to give similar reassurance.”

Alex Norris MP, Shadow Minister for Public Health and Patient Safety, said
: “These findings demonstrate just how hard medical professionals have been working and the pressures they are under.

“It is important as we move into a vaccine context and want a return to parts of normal life that we have a proper restoration plan for the NHS rather than just ask them to keep on going as they are.”