Credit: This story was first seen on Sky News
Nearly 40% of GPs in southwest England say they are highly likely to quit the profession because of low morale and overwhelming workloads, a survey published in BMJ Open suggests.
The poll of more than 2,200 general practitioners found that 70% intend on reducing their contact with patients in some way over the next five years – through permanently leaving, taking a career break, or by cutting their hours, Sky News reports.
More than half of those polled by the University of Exeter reported low morale – and the professor behind the research has warned that similar figures across other British regions would necessitate robust action “swiftly and urgently” to prevent a staffing crisis.
Professor John Campbell has urged the government to move away from “sticking plaster solutions” and to tackle the workload pressures that GPs face – with younger doctors reluctant to take on a practice because of the financial risks and responsibilities involved.
He said the number of GPs who said they were thinking of quitting was bleaker than expected – not least because the South West is often considered a “desirable” place to work.
“If the GPs we surveyed fulfil their intentions to leave or cut back their patient contact, and no action is taken to address the issue, the southwest of England will experience a severe shortfall of GPs in the next five years,” Professor Campbell warned.
He also claimed the looming shortage was exacerbated by how the country’s current workforce of GPs is aging – as 30% of them are over 50 years old.
According to Professor Campbell, GPs and their staff are responsible for 90% of patient contacts with the health service, yet receive 7p in every £1 of NHS spending.
Doctors in the region believe the situation is likely to get worse as demand increases because of fewer beds in community hospitals.
Dr Bruce Hughes, chair of the Devon Local Medical Committee, said: “The research reaffirms the significant challenges our grassroot GPs and practice face every day as they strive to deliver high-quality patient care. There simply aren’t enough GPs to deal with the anticipated further rising demand due to lack of entrants into the profession, retirements, those choosing to leave through burnout or disillusionment, or who have reduced their hours or moved abroad for a better work-life balance.”
Last month, figures showed there had been a decrease in the number of GPs working in the NHS despite government plans to recruit 5,000 more by the end of the decade.
A Department of Health spokeswoman claimed the survey was conducted before the government launched its “world-leading plan” to improve conditions in general practice.
She said: “It doesn’t take into account our steps to improve morale and retention by investing £2.4bn more into primary care, making extra payments to GPs, and cutting red tape while increasing flexible working. To ease future workforce pressures, we are also now training the highest number of GPs since records began.”