What Does a GP Shortage Mean for GPs?

Being a GP has always been hard work, but a mixture of increasing workloads, government cuts and mounting stress levels mean that many are now at breaking point. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that a quarter of those currently working as GPs intend to retire from the job before the age of 60, according to a poll carried out by BBC Inside Out. With chronic GP shortages making appointments increasingly difficult to get for patients in many parts of the country, what are the effects of the GP shortage on GPs themselves, as well as on those who are considering becoming one in the future?

Work-related Stress

The medical profession as a whole tends to attract people who are able to withstand considerable amounts of work pressure. In the past, remuneration, as well as having a job held in high regard, tended to offset this, but increasingly, this is no longer the case. Long working hours, high numbers of consultations and a feeling of being trapped in an occupation that is no longer glamorous are all factors fuelling widespread discontent among GPs and contributing to the GP shortage. Many now feel that short of significant policy changes, fleeing the job is the only solution.

The Private Sector Steps In

On a structural level, the GP shortage is beginning to impact other parts of the health service. For example, more patients are now relying on locums and out-of-hours services, as well as pharmacists, who are able to diagnose, provide advice and prescribe medication for many minor ailments.

In some instances, the private sector is also stepping in to fill the gap in patient care. In Bristol, the BBC reports that a private GP surgery called The Medical is offering their customers membership options, much like a gym, in which patients are able to buy appointments in bulk, which they are then able to use as and when they need. But for many over-stretched surgeries across the country, staying open with so few staff is no longer feasible, and large numbers are having to close altogether.

Medical Students Reject GP Jobs

Given this challenging situation, it is perhaps not surprising that many medical students who are currently still in training are choosing to reject the option of becoming GPs. The BBC’s report reveals that in 2015, only a fifth of medical students chose to become GPs after completing their initial training, with workload, long hours and lower status chief among the factors turning turning them away from the job.

Exploring Alternatives To Counter The GP Shortage

With the shortage in staff unlikely to reverse anytime soon, there’s no doubt that significant structural reforms are needed in order for health services to continue to be able to provide adequate care for Britain’s ageing population.

In the mean time, those who are committed to working as GPs and providing the best possible care for their patients may want to explore other ways of remaining within the profession. If you’re a current or new GP and want to keep working but feel concerned about the way working conditions are changing, feel free to get in touch with EBCOOH today to explore the range of working options available to you. We are committed to placing GPs into positions that offer flexibility and job satisfaction, without having to compromise on quality of care.