Urgent need to address exodus of GPs over next five years

NEARLY 19,000 GPs and trainees are expected to leave the profession over the next five years unless action is taken ease workload and workforce pressures, according to a survey by the Royal College of GPs.

The survey of 1,262 GP and trainee respondents found that 42 per cent said they are likely to quit the profession in the next five years, with 10 per cent in the next year and 19 per cent in the next two years. Among those not planning to retire, 60 per cent cite stress, working hours, and lack of job satisfaction as their reasons to quit.

The RCGP points out that even a record yearly intake of 4,000 GP trainees (in 2021) sustained over the next five years will not be enough to sufficiently increase GPs numbers dealing with growing patient demand.

The survey also found that 68 per cent of respondents said they don’t have enough time to properly assess their patients, and 65 per cent said patient safety is being compromised due to appointments being too short. A significant majority (80 per cent) expect working in general practice to get worse over the next few years, and 38 per cent said GP practice premises are not fit for purpose.

The RCGP has launched a new campaign Fit for the Future: a new plan for GPs and their patients which sets out urgent actions for Government to tackle the workforce and workload crisis.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "What our members are telling us about working on the frontline of general practice is alarming. General practice is significantly understaffed, underfunded, and overworked and this is impacting on the care and services we’re able to deliver to patients.

“The intensity and complexity of our workload is escalating whilst numbers of fully qualified, full-time GPs are falling. The College has been sounding alarm bells about the intense pressures GPs and our teams are working under, and the urgent need for support, since well before the pandemic, but covid has only exacerbated the situation. This is taking its toll on the health and wellbeing of GPs and other members of their teams - pushing many to consider leaving the profession earlier than planned.

“We need to make being a GP sustainable again, for the sake of the NHS, and for the sake of patients. We urge politicians and decision makers to take heed of our campaign calls.”

Naeem Nazem, Head of Medical Division at MDDUS, said: “Sadly, this report mirrors our latest member survey, which found that one in two GPs were considering taking early retirement or leaving the profession altogether.

“Members told us the main reasons for this were increased workloads, mental health and wellbeing, and staff shortages.

“It is clear stress levels in the UK healthcare workforce have reached an almost unsustainable point, and our frontline GPs are struggling.

“Being a family doctor should and can be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. But right now, GPs urgently need recognition, reassurance and realism to feel supported and empowered to stay in their hard-earned careers.

“Policymakers’ decision-making must factor in the clear connection between adequate funding and support for primary care services, health professionals, and patient safety.”

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