GP services face 'retirement crisis'

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GP services are facing a crisis, with a third of doctors considering retirement in the next five years, a British Medical Association poll suggests.

The survey of more than 15,000 UK GPs also found over a quarter were considering working part-time.

And one in 10 said they were thinking about moving abroad.

BMA GP leader Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the findings showed some of the promises being made about doctors by politicians were "absurd".

Improving GP care has been one of the major themes of debate in the election, with the Conservatives promising seven-day access to services and Labour pledging a 48-hour waiting-time guarantee.

The findings are in the second tranche of results from the BMA's poll of GPs, in which nearly a third of doctors in the UK took part.

Last week the BMA released figures suggesting excessive workloads were harming care. This batch of results focused on the effect those rising demands were having. It suggests:

  • 34% of GPs are considering retiring from general practice in the next five years
  • 28% of those working full-time are thinking about moving to part-time
  • 9% are considering moving abroad
  • 7% are considering quitting medicine altogether

They also cited various factors that had a negative impact on their commitment to being a GP, including:

  • excessive workload - 71%
  • un-resourced work being moved into general practice - 54%
  • not enough time with their patients - 43%

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Dr Nagpaul said: "This poll lays bare the stark reality of the crisis facing the GP workforce.

"It is clear that incredible pressures on GP services are at the heart of this problem, with escalating demand having far outstripped capacity.

"GPs are overworked and intensely frustrated that they do not have enough time to spend with their patients.

"In this climate, it is absurd that in the recent leaders' debate, political parties were attempting to outbid each other on the number of GPs they could magically produce in the next Parliament.

"Since it takes five to eight years to train a GP, it is not possible to create thousands of GPs in this timeframe."

Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said: "We know from the many calls to our helpline that patients are not able to access GP services at times when they need to.

"What patients want is a clear and firm commitment that GPs now and tomorrow will have the resources to meet their needs.

"Anything less is just not acceptable.

"We need a 21st Century primary care service with access 24/7."

But a spokesman for NHS England said measures were being put in place to recruit extra GPs through the recently developed workforce action plan.

He said: "NHS England has invested £10m to kick-start the initiatives in the plan, which include incentives to recruit newly trained doctors into general practice, schemes to retain GPs thinking of leaving the profession and a new induction and returner scheme to encourage more GPs to return from to work after a period of absence working abroad or from a career break."

There are currently 9,000 GPs in training, although 14,000 doctors - about four in 10 - are over the age of 50.

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