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Urgent action needed to reverse ‘mass exodus’ of 19,000 GPs, says RCGP

by Julie Griffiths
24 June 2022

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The RCGP has called for urgent action to avoid the loss of nearly 19,000 GPs and trainees in the next five years.

The college said the Government must urgently address the intense workload and workforce pressures in general practice.

It has launched a new campaign – Fit for the Future: a new plan for GPs and their patients – in which it sets out required actions to tackle the crisis in general practice.

The campaign comes on the back of a poll by the college which revealed that 42% of GP and trainees say they are likely to quit the profession in the next five years. The snapshot survey suggests that 10% will leave in the next year and 19% in the next two years. 

Extrapolating the 1,262 responses across 45,000 current GPs and trainees, this could mean patients losing 18,950 GPs and trainees, or 15,000 full-time equivalent GPs, the RCGP warned.

Of those not planning to retire, 60% cite stress, working hours, and lack of job satisfaction as their reasons to quit.

More than two thirds (68%) of GPs say they don’t have enough time to properly assess their patients, with 65% saying patient safety is being compromised due to appointments being too short.

Over a third (38%) said GP practice premises are not fit for purpose, and IT for booking systems are not good enough (34%). And 80% of respondents expect working in general practice to get worse over the next few years, compared to only 6% who expect it to get better.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall described the findings as ‘alarming’.

He said: ‘General practice is significantly understaffed, underfunded, and overworked and this is impacting on the care and services we’re able to deliver to patients. Our survey results should act as a stark warning for politicians and decision-makers.’

The RCGP said the findings painted a worrying picture of a dangerously overstretched and severely under-resourced service at breaking point.

The college’s campaign has highlighted ways to address the most pressing problems.

It includes a call to invest in a new suite of IT products and support for practices, making it easier for patients to choose to see the same GP or the next available member of the team. The RCGP said this will improve patients’ experience of accessing care.

It also wants to see an NHS-wide campaign to free up GPs to spend more time with patients by cutting unnecessary workload and bureaucracy. There should be a detailed plan to go beyond the target of 6,000 extra full-time equivalent GPs, said the RCGP.

And the college called for the general practice budget to be restored to account for 11% of total health spend, including a £1bn investment in GP premises.

Prof Marshall said: ‘Taking these steps will alleviate the unsustainable and unsafe pressure that GPs and our teams are working under, and free up time to have longer consultations and build the invaluable relationships with patients that we know lead to better health outcomes.

‘We need to make being a GP sustainable again, for the sake of the NHS, and for the sake of patients. We urge politicians and decision-makers to take heed of our campaign calls.’