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Nearly half of primary care staff want to leave in the next year, report finds


By Valeria Fiore
Reporter
27 March 2019

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Nearly half of primary care workers are considering leaving their job in the next 12 months, a new report by Healthcare Leader publisher Cogora has found.

The Primary Concerns 2018: The State of Primary Care report showed that 44% of the primary care workforce is considering quitting in 2019, with a quarter of those not even close to retirement age.

Reasons for leaving given by the more than 2,300 GP partners, salaried GPs, practice managers, nurses, pharmacists, and healthcare assistants who took part included rising workload, high stress levels, a lack of resources, and poor work life balance.

‘Unrealistic demand from patients’

For the sixth year running, the report, which collected answers in November and December 2018, found that morale among primary care staff is low.

‘Unrealistic demand from patients’ was recognised by 51% of respondents to be a ‘very influential factor’ on their low morale, followed by lack of appreciation by management at 43%, too much bureaucracy at 42%, and workload coming from other sectors at 35%.

An anonymous GP partner said: ‘I don’t enjoy the job any more. [We experience] unrealistic demand and expectations [and receive] no support from [our] CCG or NHS England.

‘Working conditions will only get worse and I wouldn’t recommend this job to my children, or indeed anyone considering medicine. I am looking to move into another sector within the next 12-18 months.’

The report also found that 34% of respondents said their stress levels had worsened to the point where they had needed to take time off in the 12 months leading up to the survey or were considering doing so in the next year.

The high level of stress or burnout had, for 40% of respondents, affected the patient care they gave. The same percentage, 40% of respondents, also said they work beyond their contracted hours every day.

An anonymous GP partner said: ‘When feeling particularly stressed or harassed, even if you try to be objective during consultations, I think this will always affect your consultations.’

As part of the NHS long-term plan, published in January, primary and community care services have been promised an extra £4.5bn a year by 2023/24.

However, according to a report by the Health Foundation published last month, it is unlikely that the NHS will meet its ambition to provide care to patients closer to home if it fails to recruit and retain more healthcare professionals at primary and community level.

Vacancies across the NHS currently stand at over 100,000, of which over 40,000 affect the nursing sector. An NHS England spokesperson said:

‘The NHS is offering financial and educational support to encourage GPs to stay, there are more GPs in training than ever before and – as set out in the long-term plan – the NHS is funding 20,000 more staff to help GP practices; building on the 5,000 extra practice staff working with GPs over the past four years.’

Fearing the impact of Brexit 

The survey also canvassed primary care staff’s views on sustainability and transformation partnerships’s (STPs) impact on primary care, and the potential effect of Brexit.

As many as 75% of respondents said they think that Brexit will negatively affect the number of nurses working  in the NHS, while 71% believe the same will be true for the number of GPs.

Nearly two-thirds, 64%, also believe Brexit will interfere with medicines supplies, while 54% think it will cause community pharmacists to stockpile medicines.

The survey also revealed a lack of enthusiasm for STPs.

More than half of GP partners, 54%, said that STPs had had a negative impact on patient care, and 35% of practice managers shared their view.

In the long-term plan – which had not yet been published at the time this survey was conducted – NHS England outlined a vision for general practice to play a greater role at system level.

This will be achieved through the creation of primary care networks, which will have their own representative at integrated care system meeting.

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