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Nearly four-in-10 GPs are reaching retirement age, analysis shows

by Jess Hacker
1 November 2021

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Almost four-in-10 (37%) GPs are approaching retirement age, new analysis of NHS Digital data has shown.

Conducted by the Liberal Democrats, the analysis showed that as many as 10,362 GPs are aged 50 or over, considerably more than England’s 8,632 trainee GPs.

Of those, 6,421 – or 23% of the total number of fully trained GPs – are aged between 55 and 60.

The party warned of a ‘mass exodus’ of GPs, describing the situation as a ‘retirement time bomb’.

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans and the party’s spokesperson for health and social care, said: ‘Without urgent action, services will be left even more overstretched while patients find it even harder to get appointments.

‘The Conservatives must stop using GPs as a punching bag and scapegoating them for the government’s own failures.’

Instead, the Government must focus on ‘recruiting the fully qualified GPs they promised and boost funding to alleviate the pressures on surgeries’ or risk a ‘mass exodus of staff’.

It comes a few weeks after NHS England published its GP access plan which has been described as ‘punitive and damaging’, notably for its intention to take ‘immediate’ action against the 20% of practices with the lowest face-to-face appointment levels.

The ‘arbitrary’ plan has been linked to anti-GP campaigns in the media by both the Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM) and the BMA.

Responding to the new analysis, Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said: ‘When GPs are approaching retirement age, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to leave the profession straightaway, but against the backdrop of intense workload and workforce pressures, coupled with current overbearing scrutiny from some sections of the media and politicians, it’s an increasingly realistic prospect and a huge concern.’

He highlighted a recent survey of RCGP members which indicated that 8% planned to leave the profession in the next year, rising to 34% within the next five.

‘We’re seeing good work happening, with success, to encourage medical students to choose general practice – but we urgently need to see more being done to encourage GPs to stay in the profession, including by addressing ‘undoable’ workload,’ he added.

A major study published this summer indicated the number of practices with high GP turnover almost doubled from 14% in 2009, to 27% in 2019.

The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.