The NHS is seeing a “worsening crisis” in its GP workforce, with four in 10 doctors wanting to leave the profession, researchers say.
Large workloads and feelings of demoralisation are behind a surge in the number wanting to quit, a new study from the University of Warwick found.
Research based on a survey of 929 GPs in the Wessex region of England found that 59 per cent said morale had worsened over the past two years, and 49 per cent had brought forward their plans to leave the profession.
Overall, 42 per cent of GPs said they intended to leave or retire within the next five years, compared with 32 per cent in 2014.
The study, published in the BMJ Open, reflects an England-wide GP recruitment crisis, said Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth.
He said: “Properly resourced general practice is absolutely key to keeping people well and relieving wider pressures on the NHS, yet having spent time on the front line with GPs, it’s obvious morale is low. Our GPs are overworked and under resourced with many experiencing burn-out.”
The study found that workload was a major issue, with 51 per cent of GPs reporting that they were working longer hours than in 2014.
Professor Jeremy Dale, lead author of the study at Warwick Medical School, said: “GP morale and job satisfaction has been deteriorating for many years, and we have known that this is leading to earlier burnout, with GPs retiring or leaving the profession early.
“What this survey indicates is that this is continuing and growing despite a number of NHS measures and initiatives that had been put in place to address this over the last few years.
“Many GPs clearly feel that this is too little, too late and have failed to experience any benefit from these initiatives and are unable to sustain working in NHS general practice.
“There’s a worsening crisis in general practice. The situation is bad, it is getting worse and GPs are feeling increasingly overworked and increasingly negative about the future.”
Prof Dale said proposals in the NHS long-term plan, such as more funding and an increase in the workforce, are desperately needed.
He added: “The point that came through repeatedly in the survey was that GPs felt that we’ve gone a long way down the road of insufficient investment and insufficient reward. Turning this around will be a mammoth task.”
NHS England said the survey represented a “tiny proportion” of GPs in one local area.
A spokesperson said there were more GPs in training than ever before and the NHS was funding “an army of 20,000 more staff to help GP practices building on the 5,000 extra practice staff working with GPs over the past four years.
“Figures from Health Education England show the highest ever number of people entering GP training in NHS history with this year’s figure of 3,473 meaning that the annual target of 3,250 has been surpassed for the first time.”