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GPs leave practices for three main reasons, research has found

by Valeria Fiore
5 February 2018

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A research has found that practices are losing their GPs because of three reasons in particular and encourages policymakers to start from these findings to improve the state of primary care.

The study by the University of Exeter Medical School, financed by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), has found that GPs quit patient care because they feel that general practice is undervalued in comparison to the wider healthcare system, a combination of administrative and legal challenges making the risks ‘not proportional to the rewards’, and considerations on the options GPs had when considering to leave patient care.  

The findings were collected after researchers interviewed 41 GPs and come after last year a largescale survey led by Professor John Campbell found that two in five GPs in the South West were considering quitting their job in the next five years.

Haemorrhaging of GPs

Despite the pledge to hit 5,000 more GPs by 2020, government data has shown that more than 1000 GPs left primary care between 2016 and 2017.

Professor Campbell said: ‘Numbers are continuing to fall. If we do not act now, many areas will face a severe shortfall in the number of GPs providing care for patients in their area.’

Speaking at a Management in Practice conference on 28 September 2017, NHS England director of primary care Dr Arvin Madan said that‘primary care is on the top of the NHS agenda’ and more medical students were training to become GPs, with GP training centres increasing to 3,250 a year.

However, general practice was not even mentioned at the Autumn Budget, when £335m were allocated to hospitals to cope with winter pressures.  

Chair of the Royal College of GPs professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said that the study showed a need to both retain experienced doctors and hire many more.  

She said: ‘GP workload has increased by at least 16% over the last seven years – and become far more complex – but the share of the overall NHS budget that general practice receives is less that it was a decade ago, and our workforce has not risen at pace.

‘We need the pledge of 5,000 more GPs by 2020 made in NHS England’s GP Forward View to be delivered, in full, and as a matter of urgency – but the latest workforce figures actually showed a concerning drop of more than 600 full-time equivalent family doctors between March-September last year.’

How can you help as a practice manager?

You can make GPs aware that if they are struggling, help is available. The NHS GP Health Service, a self-referral scheme launched last year, offers a free and confidential service to doctors experiencing mental health issues or addiction problems.

However, you can also ensure that life at your practice is sustainable for GPs.

Managing partner at Mundesley Medical Centre Linda Marquis told Management in Practice that GPs based at her practice have a good work-life balance.

She said: ‘We make sure we have efficient processes in place and enough admin support so that they do not need to work late into the night.’ 

You can also look at your GPs’ post, as practice manager at the Alvanley Family Practice Kay Keane suggested.

She said: ‘We are trying to reduce workload through social prescribing and the practice health champions. We have also now started to look at all their post (one of the top 10 high impact actions) and now they only see 15% of incoming mail.  It’s a simple thing but makes huge difference.’