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UK GPs are "undervalued" with 40% looking to quit profession, study finds

Published on 05/02/18 at 12:22pm

Falling numbers of General Practitioners (GPs) in the UK are due to “concerns regarding professional risk in delivering care in an increasingly complex health environment”, and a feeling general practice-based primary care is “undervalued”, according to new study from the University of Exeter.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research, was a follow-up to an earlier large-scale study and analysed responses from 41 GPs in the south-west of England. It was found that as many as two in five of the GPs plan to quit the profession within the next five years, while concerns over mounting demands without adequate remuneration were rife.

To rectify this worsening issue, the Government has committed to bring an extra 5,000 GPs to the profession by 2020. However, the number of full-time equivalent GPs in the UK fell by 1,193 in the year up to October 2017, compared to just 97 a year earlier, according to NHS Digital, while there were four times as many unfilled posts in 2014 as in 2012.

“This is a crisis which we've been pointing out for a number of years,” remarked Dr Richard Vautrey, Chair of the British Medical Association’s GPs committee.

Professor John Campbell, who led the new study and is a practising GP, says there is much to be done to solve the problem:

“Our new research is a significant study of what is driving the exodus of GPs from direct patient care,” he remarked. “Policy makers need to take this onboard and address these issues to retain GPs and encourage medical students to take up a career in general practice. Despite recent government plans to address the problem, 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.”

“We now need sustained, strategic, and stable planning of health services – not a series of short-term ‘fixes’ which only destabilise clinical care further. Innovation is essential, but needs to be based on firm evidence.”

Matt Fellows

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