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Number of GPs wanting to leave patient care 'is further evidence of acute workforce crisis'

Responding to the University of Manchester study published today1, which shows the number of GPs wanting to quit direct patient care within the next five years at an all-time high of 39 per cent, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said:

“While these figures are concerning, they are certainly not surprising, and provide yet further evidence of the scale of the acute workforce crisis in general practice.

“In the face of rising patient demand and increasing administrative burden, GP workload has reached a point where doctors feel they cannot provide safe, high-quality care. 

“As noted in this report, doctors feel they can no longer ‘do the job justice’. Most will have dedicated decades of their lives to training and then practising, so it is unsurprising that many wish to leave when they are physically unable to do it to the high standards they set for themselves.

“It is imperative that practices must be able to set safe working limits both to ensure the best outcomes for their patients and to protect GPs’ own physical and mental health. The stress and pressure that excessive workloads and oppressive regulation are having on GPs is clear, with more than 1,000 doctors needing help from the NHS’s own GP Health Service in its first year of operation.

“As more GPs decide to leave the profession it will be patients who suffer. We know that they face unacceptably long waits for appointments, and this will only get worse as the number of GPs practising in surgeries across the country falls. Just this week we learned that more than a million patients have been forced to move practices due to their own closing or merging in the last five years.

“Earlier this month we read with dismay that the number of full-time equivalent GPs working in England was continuing to plummet despite the government’s pledge to recruit 5,000 more by 2020. Although the number of training places has increased, this is not enough to address the dire recruitment and retainment crisis.

“This report underlines the urgent need for the government to invest properly in general practice, making it an enticing career prospect once again.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

1. The National GP Worklife Survey is a national survey of GPs in England, which has been carried out nine times since 1999. It analysed two samples in 2017: 996 GPs responded to a random sample of 4,000 people, and 1,199 responded (out of 22280) after being followed up after responding to the 2015 survey. Find the full report here.


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