Only two-thirds of trainee GPs plan to work as NHS GPs for more than six months

'Constant media bashing' of GPs and heavy workloads blamed for poor morale

Ian Johnston
Science Correspondent
Thursday 17 August 2017 01:44 BST
The Government's 'rescue package' aims to recruit 5,000 more GPs
The Government's 'rescue package' aims to recruit 5,000 more GPs (PA)

Less than two-thirds of trainee GPs plan to be working in an NHS general practice just six months after completing their training, according to a new survey which highlights the low morale among new recruits.

The NHS has become a routine target for the right-wing press and some of the trainees complained that “constant GP bashing in the media” was influencing patients’ views.

A paper about the study in the journal BMJ Open warned that “perceptions about workload pressure and morale” during work placements in surgeries were having a negative effect on trainees.

The researchers wrote: “About a third of participants [in the survey] described an intention to be working outside NHS general practice.

“At six months post-completion of training, 62.8 per cent expected to be working in the NHS in a salaried, locum or other non-principal GP role, reducing to 33.9 per cent at five years.”

Some were planning to develop “portfolio careers”, working part-time as a GP and doing something else.

Others were “planning to leave general practice completely, work overseas, take a career break/maternity leave or did not state a career intention”.

The researchers, from Warwick Medical School, called for the problems highlighted in the survey to be addressed.

“It is essential for the future of general practice that medical students and doctors are attracted to undertake vocational training to become GPs, and that the experience of training encourages enthusiastic progression towards joining the GP workforce,” they said.

“This study highlights the importance … that the increasing workload and decreasing morale in UK general practice are combated in order to improve recruitment.”

The survey was completed by 178 trainee GPs working in the West Midlands. The researchers said this was a “reasonable for this type of questionnaire study” but added that the “findings should be interpreted cautiously”.

Some of the comments by the trainees showed just how badly media coverage was affecting morale.

“I have found myself recently when driving home from more challenging days considering leaving general practice when I CCT [get the GP certificate],” one said.

“These are usually days when I feel I have been trying to solve problems that are probably not really in the GP remit. I think the media coverage increases these feelings.”

Another said: “Constant GP bashing in media is demoralising, quite rare to hear stories about hard work and positive outcomes from primary care. Previously would have considered partnership but no longer, might consider locum or part time.”

A third trainee added: “Media bashing of GPs has affected morale combined with poor training on how to actually run a practice this has led to fear of applying for partnerships.

“Salaried doctors are used and abused by practices with no personal autonomy. Locum is the other option or emigrate.”

A fourth said: “There seems to be bad publicity about general practice from every angle. If you look in a newspaper you are told about 'bungling GPs’.

“The Government seems to think that we are not working at all and all crisis in hospital is due to our lack of work … It all has led to a very negative atmosphere and makes me reluctant to go to work in the morning because I wonder what battle I am going to have to face that day.”

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