Numbers of GPs wanting to leave already high before COVID, finds survey

The number of GPs who say they were likely to quit direct patient care within five years was 37%, even before the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey carried out by University of Manchester researchers.

The figure was 63% in GPs over 50.

Even among younger GPs (under the age of 50), more than one in every ten (11%) said they were planning to leave.

These figures show a slight decline since 2017, but this remains a concern, and intentions to quit within 5 years in those over 50 have increased from 62% in 2017.

The mean level of overall job satisfaction, measured between 1 (extremely dissatisfied) and 7 (extremely satisfied), increased by 0.24 points from 4.25 in 2017 to 4.49 in 2019, with more than half of the respondents (59%) stating that they were satisfied with their job overall.

Mean levels of satisfaction increased between 2017 and 2019 to varying degrees in all nine domains of job satisfaction, although this remains lower than the peak of satisfaction found in 2005.

Overall hours of work showed a slight decline, and respondents indicated a slight decline in negative job attributes and an increase in positive job attributes since 2017.

The GP Worklife Survey is a longitudinal survey which has been assessing job satisfaction and job stressors amongst GPs in England since 1999.

A sample of GPs are asked to complete a questionnaire which asks them to rate their job satisfaction and the aspects of their jobs which they find particularly stressful or satisfying, as well as their intentions as regards their future work.

The survey has run approximately every two years since 1999, and so provides evidence about changes over time.

The evidence it provides is used by the Department of Health and Social Care to inform their evidence to the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Pay Review Body.

The survey was run for the 10th time in 2019.

The survey, carried out by the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Systems and Commissioning, has run approximately every two years since 1999, and so provides evidence about changes over time.

It analyses two samples in 2019: 605 GPs responded to a random sample of 4976 people and 772 responded (out of 1917) after being followed up having responded to the 2017 survey.

Professor Kath Checkland, who led the study said: “It is encouraging to see that there was a small increase in job satisfaction between 2017 and 2019, but the high levels of GPs planning to leave patient care even before the pandemic hit is very concerning. We are now carrying out a further round of the survey to try to capture changes in job satisfaction driven by the pandemic. It is really important that we get as many responses as possible, and I would encourage all GPs receiving a link to the survey to respond, so that we get as complete a picture as possible.”

The Tenth National GP Worklife Survey was carried out by the Health Organisation, Policy and Economics (HOPE) research group at The University of Manchester on behalf of the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Systems and Commissioning (PRUComm). PRUComm is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care Policy Research Programme.

This report is independent research commissioned and funded by the National Institute for Health Research Policy Research Programme. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research, the Department of Health and Social Care or its arm’s length bodies, and other Government Departments

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