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More than a third of GPs considering early retirement within a year, survey finds


By Costanza Pearce
4 May 2021

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Over a third of GPs (36%) are considering early retirement within the next 12 months, as doctors are overwhelmed by an ‘avalanche’ of workload hitting practices.

GP leaders warned that the situation, revealed via the BMA’s latest survey, is a ‘ticking time bomb’ and must function as a ‘wake-up call’ for the UK Government.

Asked by the BMA about their plans for the next year:

  • 36% (524) of 1,457 GP respondents across the UK said they were considering taking early retirement
  • More than half (51%) added that they were now more likely to reduce their hours.
  • Around a fifth (21.5%) said they were thinking of leaving the NHS for another career, while 22% said they were considering a ‘career break’.
  • More than half (55%) of the GPs responding to the survey said workload was one of the factors that ‘best explains’ their reasons for changing their career plans and 45% cited their personal wellbeing.
  • And almost seven in 10 GPs (68%) are ‘not at all’ or ‘not very’ confident that their practice can manage patient demand as normal NHS services are resumed.

The figures show a major shift in GP plans over the last ten months compared with a similar BMA survey conducted in June, in which 15% of GPs said they either ‘plan to leave the NHS, retire early [or] work elsewhere once normal services are resumed’.

One Yorkshire GP told the BMA they’ve had colleagues ‘overwhelmed’ and  ‘in tears’ over the ‘avalanche of work that has hit general practice’.

They said: ‘In my more than 20 years of training and working in the NHS, I have been closest to leaving the job that I love in the last few months. 

‘There are various reasons for it, but it mainly comes down to lack of confidence in a Government that failed the public and profession during the pandemic, and is now claiming the success of the profession’s vaccination delivery as their own in order to hide their failings.‘

The anonymous GP added: ‘If things don’t change in the next few weeks, I do worry that many colleagues will leave the profession, not because they have failed, but the Government and the system failed them.’

Another GP told the BMA: ‘I do two clinical days and go home a zombie. In the last few weeks, I’ve sat at home, once or twice until two in the morning, concerned I may have missed something. 

‘The pressure during the day is phenomenal, more than I have ever experienced and several GPs are now saying the last month is the hardest they have ever worked. Many are looking to take their pension and go.’

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the findings ‘must act as a wake-up call to the UK Government’ and be treated with ‘the utmost urgency’.

He said: ‘General practice, like much of the NHS, is currently facing unprecedented pressures as we battle to keep patients safe during the pandemic on top of a growing backlog of care.

‘Our calls must be listened to, and our workforce truly valued. This means giving GPs the respite they need and access to proper breaks to ensure no more feel forced to leave a career they’ve worked so hard to achieve.’

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul added that the threat of a ‘mass exodus’ of NHS staff is a ‘ticking time bomb’ that the Government must act upon.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

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