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An investigation by the BBC has shown that the NHS is currently suffering from a lack of GPs. Doctors are leaving their jobs before they reach the age of 60 and junior doctors are turning down the profession as they believe it to be an ‘unglamorous’ career.

The survey, conducted by BBC’s Inside Out questioned approximately 1,000 GP’s, and found that a quarter of current GP’s would definitely be leaving their positions before the age of 60. Additionally, another 30% stated they would ‘probably’ leave before the age of 60. The remaining GP’s either said that they wouldn’t leave or weren’t sure whether they would leave.

Appointment pressures

As a result of this the pressures being felt by other health practitioners and out-of-hours services are increasing as they are left with the demand for GP services.

In the North of England, the out-of-hours doctors service, Cumbria Health on Call (CHOC), says it is incredibly busy due to the fact that people call when they cannot get a GP appointment. These centres have reported that they are taking up to 30,000 calls a week from patients who are unable to get appointments at their local GP surgeries.

Lack of new GPs

As well as exiting GPs leaving the profession another issues seems to be lack of students training to become a GP. This has resulted in vacant GP posts increasing by 4 over the last 3 years.

The survey also queried why GPs think that medical students are choosing not go down the GP route. The results showed that 27% of the GPs asked thought that reason for this shunning was due to the increased volume of consultations. Whereas 20% thought is was due to their standing within the medical profession, 19% thought it was due to long working hours and 9% thought it was due to the level of pay they receive.

Mitul Patel, a final-year student, said: “Your work environment is so pressured and stressful as a GP. It puts current and prospective GP trainees off.”

Rob Cleaver, editor of the Medical Student, added: “If we’re told something’s second rate, you instantly disregard it. I’ve seen people actually taken aback when someone else has said, ‘I’d like to be a GP.”

What can be done?

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni from the British Medical Association stressed the need for a solution to the number of GPs leaving the service. “Trying to ask GPs to do more and more work, and not resourcing and staffing it correctly will mean general practice will break.”

“Politicians across the board need to acknowledge that general practice is not resourced and funded correctly.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC’s Inside Out: “Hospitals have been struggling to meet increasing demand and that has taken money away from services like GPs, mental health and district nursing.”

“That was wrong and we’re moving to correct that. The centre of gravity in the NHS for 66 years has been big hospitals. We need to change that and make the centre of gravity general practice and out-of-hospital care.”

However, as the UK’s population increases (discussed previously here) and GPs continue to leave the job, these changes will need to happen fast in case more drastic treatment is needed to fight the increasing amount of GP shortages.