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  1. ITV Report

The South West's GP shortage: what's putting them off the job?

WANTED: 111 General Practitioners to fill vacancies across the South West.

That's the latest figure from NHS England, for a region where GPs are already struggling with huge numbers of patients. On average they have at least 1500 patients each, and in North Somerset - the most stretched region - they have over 1900 patients each.

Although the minimum salary for a fully-qualified GP is £56,000 a year, most of them work 12-hour days and see approximately 30-40 patients a day.

According to University of Bath researcher and former GP Dr Michael Harris, NHS reorganisation, increased workload and reduced time for patient care are the factors forcing many GPs to leave the profession early.

45.5%
of GPs leaving the profession early are under 50

Dr Harris left the profession himself after 27 years. He has recently published a new study into GP retention, for which he interviewed 143 GPs who had also left early.

In the last few years I have seen many of my GP colleagues leaving practice early because of the unbearable pressure of work.

This study has found a key reason is the constantly increasing administrative workload has reduced time for face-to-face patient care that they are passionate about.

– Dr Michael Harris
Dr Michael Harris says increased workload and reduced time for patient care are meaning more are leaving the profession early.

An NHS England survey found that non-patient GP time is mainly spent on:

  • Organising payment for their services
  • Processing information from hospitals
  • Keeping up to date with NHS changes

In response to the new study, NHS England says it is working to reduce the regulatory paperwork burden on GPs, and encourage practices to work together to spread out the administrative tasks. It also adds:

"We know GPs are under pressure, seeing more patients with more complex conditions. As part of a major new plan we will be training thousands more GPs over the coming years as well as increasing funding whilst upgrading buildings and equipment."

– NHS England spokesperson