GPs under 50 leaving profession on the rise, study finds

The study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, found that personal reasons were rarely a factor which contributed to a GP’s decision to relocate or change profession. It also claimed that ‘to improve retention of young GPs, the pace of administrative change needs to be minimised and the time spent by GPs on work that is not face-to-face patient care reduced.’

The researchers from the University of Bath, University of Bristol and Staffordshire University highlighted that between 2009 and 2014, 45 per cent of England’s GP leavers were aged under 50.

They concluded that deeper problems within general practice were the main factor to people leaving the profession. Such issues included: organisational changes, such as the defunding of general practice, and more depersonalised and fragmented patient care; a ‘values clash’, including impossible targets not centred on the patient; increased workload, including more bureaucracy, management targets, regulations and guidelines, a shift of work from hospitals and increased patient demand; negative media portrayal including political spin and being portrayed as ‘overpaid and under-delivering’; and workplace issues such as partnership conflicts over workload and funding, less time for informal catch ups among colleagues, feeling more isolated in practice, a bullying culture, lack of occupational health support and government expectations on GPs to do more with less funding.

The paper concluded: “Lack of time with patients has compromised the ability to practise more patient-centred care, and, with it, GPs’ sense of professional autonomy and values, resulting in diminished job satisfaction.

“In this context, the additional pressures of increased patient demand and the negative media portrayal left many feeling unsupported and vulnerable to burnout and ill health, and, ultimately, to the decision to leave general practice.”

Dr Tim Ballard, vice chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said: “The amount of red tape and bureaucracy that GPs and our teams are facing is overwhelming, and as this research shows, it is driving family doctors to leave our profession at a time when we should be doing everything possible to retain them.

“With more and more of our working hours being taken up with form-filling, ticking boxes and preparing for CQC practice inspections, we are drowning in red tape and this only serves to keep us away from delivering frontline patient care, which is why we become doctors in the first place."

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