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Toxic workplaces pushing GPs out of UK practice

Toxic workplaces pushing GPs out of UK practice

By Jess Hacker
16 November 2022

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GPs are leaving UK practice over workplace incidents rather than due to falling ‘out of love’ with the profession, the GMC warned today.

Speaking to the NHS Providers conference today (16 November), chief executive Charlie Massey said that many specialty and associate specialist (SAS) and locally employed (LE) doctors feel their careers are being ‘curtailed’ and that they ‘can’t tolerate the environments’ in which they work.

Mr Massey called on healthcare leaders to help improve workplace cultures to stop the ‘senseless waste’ of talent.

He cited new GMC research into doctors’ migration which identified poor work place conditions and ‘negative experiences with colleagues’ as a ‘far more impactful’ as a trigger compared to poor experiences with patients.

According to the research, bullying at work, lack of respect from line managers and experiences of favouritism ‘provided the nudge for them to consider making a change and migrating abroad’.

These experiences were more common among ‘disheartened EU and international doctors’, the report said.

At the NHS Providers conference, Mr Massey said: ‘This is a senseless waste of talent, not least because these issues are preventable. With a focus on compassionate, supportive cultures, they can be put right. This will not only improve doctors’ wellbeing, but also their productivity. Happier workers are better workers, and they deliver better results.’

GMC researchers identified ‘key trigger moments’ for departing doctors, which they said included:

  • Personal – including wellbeing issues, life stages such as buying a home, divorce or children leaving home, or financial issues.
  • Professional – including negative workplace incidents, reaching a career crossroads, being headhunted or approached by a recruiter, witnessing the overwork, poor health or even death of a colleague.
  • Sociopolitical – including Brexit, political decisions impacting the NHS and visa issues for them and their families.

Why are GPs leaving the UK?

The research categorises migrating doctors into eight key groups:

Burnt-out GPs – many doctors mentioned burnout, but specific issues in primary care drive GPs to migrate.

Career-limited doctors – who felt they had exhausted their career opportunities in the UK.

Disheartened EU and international doctors – who had negative experiences at work connected to being a foreign national in the UK.

Disillusioned doctors – mostly UK-trained and driven to migrate by frustrations with the country’s health system.

Internationally-mobile doctors – with plenty of previous experience abroad and who work in different countries when opportunities allow.

Older explorers – experienced doctors seeking adventure and a new professional challenge after a career in the NHS.

Salary seekers – who have realised their salary, and future salary prospects, are insufficient for the quality of life they desire.

Young explorers – early career, UK-trained doctors who had travel in mind from medical school, seeking fun and adventure.

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