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Two in five GPs to “quit within five years”: large-scale survey exposes severity of impending GP shortfall

Generic image of a GP and patient in surgery.

Press release issued: 12 April 2017

Around two in every five GPs in the South West have said they intend to quit within the next five years, exposing the magnitude of the region’s impending healthcare crisis suggesting that the picture for the UK may be particularly challenging, according to a new BMJ Open study co-authored by Professor Chris Salisbury at the University of Bristol.

The study – a large-scale survey of GPs in the region – also found that seven out of 10 GPs intend to change their working patterns in a way that would mean less contact with patients. This included leaving patient care, taking a career break, or reducing their hours.

Professor Salisbury said: “This survey highlights the level of the threat to the future of general practice. As more and more GPs retire or leave the profession it increases the pressure on those doctors who are left, making them more likely to leave as well.

“General practice acts like a sieve for the NHS, helping most people to manage their problems locally with only a few needing to go to hospital. If patients cannot get to see a GP, this will have a big knock effect on hospitals. The solution is not just for the NHS to try to recruit more GPs, but to really understand why GPs are leaving and to support them better in doing their jobs well. This survey will help the NHS to understand the problem, which is the first step in finding a solution.”

Professor John Campbell, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the research, has called for a move away from “sticking plaster solutions” towards robust, joined-up action to avert the crisis nationwide.

He said: ““We carried out this survey because of a nationally recognised crisis in the shortage of GPs across the country, and our findings show an even bleaker outlook than expected for GP cover, even in an area which is often considered desirable, and which has many rural communities. If GPs have similar intentions to leave or reduce their hours in other regions, as many are reporting, the country needs to take robust action more swiftly and urgently than previously thought.”

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

Further information


‘Quitting patient care and career break intentions among general practitioners in South West England: findings of a census survey of general practitioners’ by Emily Fletcher, Gary A Abel, Rob Anderson, Suzanne H Richards, Chris Salisbury, Sarah Gerard Dean, Anna Sansom, Fiona C Warren, and John L Campbell in BMJ Open.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website ( 

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