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Huge rise in GPs planning to quit within 5 years

GPs more stressed and less satisfied with their jobs than ever

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The proportion of GPs expecting to quit in the near future has risen dramatically in just two years, in both the under-50s and over-50s, shows the latest research. The BMA has called for the Department of Health to start working with GPs to address the problems faced by the profession and stop attacking them in the media.

The Seventh National GP Worklife Survey found that more than half of GPs aged 50 and over now say they expect to quit direct patient care within five years (54.1% in 2012 compared with 47.1% in 2010). The rise has been considerably sharper among the under-50s, about one in 11 of whom now plan to quit (8.9% compared with 6.4%).

The study – funded by the Department of Health and conducted in 2012 by the National Primary Care R&D Centre – showed that GPs are now suffering higher levels of stress than at any point since the worklife surveys began in 1998. The University of Manchester researchers found an increase in all 14 measured stressors compared with 2010; GPs attributed most of this increase to ‘increasing workloads’ and ‘paperwork’.

GPs also reported their lowest overall levels of job satisfaction than at any point since the 2001 survey, before the introduction of the new contract. The average score for job satisfaction was 4.5 out of seven, compared with 4.9 in the 2010 survey, and there was an increase in all 14 measured stressors compared with 2010.

One of the biggest falls in satisfaction occurred in respect of ‘hours of work’ and ‘remuneration’, even though compared with 2010 a third fewer GPs reported having to work at least one weekend session a week (10%, down from 15%), the proportion who worked one weekday evening session barely rose (from 57% to 58%) and there was no change in the proportion who said they undertook out-of-hours work (21%).

The report’s authors said: “Reported levels of stress are now at their highest since the beginning of the National GP Worklife Survey series in 1998 … In 2012, the proportion of respondents reporting that they ‘have to work very intensively’ was 95% and 84% reported that they ‘have to work very fast’. Fewer than 10% thought that recent changes to their job had ‘led to better patient care’.”

On Saturday the British Medical Association called on Twitter for the Department of Health to publish the publicly funded study. When the study finally emerged yesterday, the BMA pointed out that it came to “very different conclusions to those reported in the media” and added: “Time @dhgovuk acknowledged workload issues facing general practice and worked with GPs to address them rather than attack them in the media.”

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