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UK GPs face most severe workforce and workload pressures

Published on 27 April 2023

UK GPs experience the highest stress and lowest job satisfaction compared to GPs in nine other high-income countries. According to a report from the Health Foundation that analyses Commonwealth Fund data.

The Commonwealth Fund surveyed GPs in the following countries:

  • UK,
  • Australia,
  • Canada,
  • France,
  • Germany,
  • the Netherlands,
  • New Zealand,
  • Sweden,
  • Switzerland,
  • United States.

On their: working life, patient care, service delivery, and how they work with other services.
Most respondents said they are dealing with higher workloads compared to before pandemic.

UK GPs reported higher levels of emotional distress - with 71% of UK saying they find their job ‘extremely’ or ‘very stressful’ - the highest alongside Germany. Half of UK GPs believe the quality of care they are able to provide has worsened since before the pandemic, and only 14% thought it had improved. The report also showed that UK GPs, along with those working in Germany, spend the shortest amount of time with patients. The median length of a GP consultation in the UK and Germany is 10 minutes, whereas in other countries surveyed this ranges between 15-25 minutes.

Cartoon of an assistant saying "The burnt out doctor will see you now" through a door. Behind them, a pile of ash smokes in a swivel chair
Kipper Williams

Responding to the Health Foundation’s report, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said:
"The College has long warned that without urgent action, general practice in the UK will become unsustainable. This report reveals just what a sorry state of affairs we are facing, especially when compared to other high-income countries.

"It is alarming, but not at all surprising, that GPs in the UK are amongst the most stressed and over-stretched of the nations examined. This chimes with College research that has shown that two-thirds of GPs feel so over-stretched that they cannot guarantee safe patient care, and many cite workload and burn out as a reason they are considering leaving the profession.”

The report also found that despite unsustainable workload and workforce challenges, UK GPs are more confident in managing palliative care needs (96%) and dementia (95%) than in most other countries. The UK also performs well on online access to services, using electronic medical records, and use of data to inform care.

Kamila added that "It's also clear that the fundamentals of general practice in the UK are good and worth supporting” but that “without a doubt, as the foundation of the NHS, GPs are struggling."