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GP morale damaged by workload, says survey

The rising GP workload must be tackled after a survey reveals two-thirds of the profession are considering early retirement, the BMA says.

GPA BMA survey, published today, shows the effect increasing workload is having on GP morale and, in turn, the potential impact on retention levels. 

Nine out of 10 GPs regularly worked beyond their normal hours and more than half of GPs reported their morale to be ‘low’ or ‘very low’.

Yet the research also reveals that eight out of 10 GPs are changing the way they work to offer more emergency appointments to patients, despite the workload pressures they are under.

The BMA GPs committee says the ‘workload disaster’ needs to be urgently averted to protect the future of general practice.

Historic low point

chaand nagpaulGPC chair Chaand Nagpaul (pictured right) said: ‘This survey demonstrates that GPs are working harder than ever before to meet the demands of their patients, as well as working innovatively to provide the service their local community wants, including providing more emergency care appointments and evening consultations.

‘However, it is clear general practice is facing a workload disaster that is threatening its long-term future. We are seeing morale dip to a level that I cannot remember in my 25 years as a GP. 

‘Six out of 10 GPs are considering early retirement and more than a third are actively planning to end their career early. 

‘This could lead to a serious workforce crisis in general practice where we do not have enough GPs to treat patients.’

More for less

Norfolk GP John Harris-Hall has made the decision to retire after 31 years in general practice. 

He said: ‘It has been a great privilege to care for patients at my practice for [more than] 28 years, and I am sad to retire early, but I feel there is no other choice; enough is enough.

‘GPs are constantly being told by the government to do more with less. The increasing demand and workload pressures are leading to low morale and stress, causing many GPs, like myself, to leave the profession.’

The key findings from the survey, part of a BMA survey of the wider profession, the results of which will be published shortly, include:

  • Six out of 10 GPs are considering early retirement and more than a third are actively planning for this decision
  • Almost all GPs reported that their workload was too heavy some of the time, with more than half saying their workload was unmanageable or unsustainable at all times
  • More than a quarter of GPs had said they were considering leaving the profession, while almost three out of ten had thought about leaving the profession altogether. 

Lack of resources

Dr Nagpaul added: ‘The root cause of this crisis is that GP practices are facing an unprecedented combination of rising patient demand, especially from an ageing population, and declining resources. 

‘The government is also asking GP practices to provide more services, including many involving the transfer of hospital care into the community, without the resources required to deliver them successfully.

‘We need politicians to realise that to meet the challenges facing general practice we need to value the hard work GPs are undertaking by supporting them properly. This includes expanding the number of GPs so that patients are given more time and care.

‘Most importantly, the government needs to work with all healthcare professionals and patients to find practical solutions to a crisis that is threatening to overwhelm general practice.’

 Read the BMA survey

 Find out more about how the survey was conducted

 Join the discussion about professional life in BMA Communities

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