Third of GPs plan to retire as workforce crisis builds

More than a third of GPs are hoping to retire within the next five years
More than a third of GPs are hoping to retire within the next five years
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URGENT action has been called for to recruit and retain doctors, as a new survey revealed a third of Scottish GPs hope to retire in the next five years.

Stretched practitioners reported “relentless and rising” workloads and work-related stress to the British Medical Association (BMA), which surveyed around 40 per cent of the 4918 GPs working in Scotland.

The BMA previously reported a “GP recruitment crisis”, with one in five practices in Scotland having at least one vacancy.

Residents in Ratho have previously complained the absence of a permanent GP has left them waiting weeks for appointments or being forced to travel to Wester Hailes for treatment when the locum doctors are away.

Dr Andrew Buist, deputy chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, said: “General practice appears to be on the brink of a workforce crisis. The prospect of the relentless and rising workload along with the frustrations of bureaucracy is driving doctors out of the profession and putting young doctors off entering general practice.”

In a survey published today, the BMA found 32 per cent of doctors said they intended to retire from general practice, while 14 per cent said they intended to move to part-time working.

It also found 69 per cent said workload had a negative impact on their personal commitment to a career in general practice, and 80 per cent said that they experienced significant levels of work related stress - although 69 per cent felt it was manageable.

More than 50 per cent would still recommend a career in general practice, Dr Buist said, but warned the pressures of the day to day job are “dampening that enthusiasm and leading to a burnout within the profession”.

His concerns were echoed by Dr Elaine McNaughton, deputy chair of Royal College of GP’s Scotland, who said recruitment was not on course this year which will leave the numbers of trainee doctors at a critically low level.

Dr McNaughton said: “We must see a commitment from Scottish Government to counter the recruitment crisis through promoting general practice as the rewarding and attractive career it will be if the current pressures are addressed.”

There should be enhanced support for people returning after a career break, as well as a bid to widen the primary care workforce by supporting the recruitment and training of pharmacists and nurses.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Early retirement is a life-choice based on financial and other personal circumstances for the individual concerned.

“It should be remembered that a number of GPs who take early retirement also choose to come back and do locum work part time so are not necessarily completely lost to general practice.”