'Urgent action to promote and encourage retention of our GPs is needed', RCGP responds to GMC research

The College responds to new research from the GMC showing thousands of doctors could be considering leaving the UK.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "The whole health service is facing serious retention issues, and general practice has been especially badly affected. GPs want to do the very best for all their patients, but the unfortunate reality is that demand for our services is escalating at the same time as the number of fully qualified GPs is falling and we can no longer guarantee safe care.  

“Many of our hardworking GPs are being pushed to breaking point by unmanageable and unsafe workloads. We are seeing good GPs either looking to work abroad or leaving the profession altogether: a recent survey from the College found that 37% of GPs already thought it was unlikely that they would be working in general practice in the next five years. This validates the GMC research published today that thousands of doctors are considering leaving UK practice and needs to be taken very seriously indeed by the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care. Urgent action to promote and encourage retention of our GPs is needed, and needed now. 

"Being a GP is a highly rewarding profession, but years of poor workforce planning and underfunding have left a substantial number of GPs are looking for other options. The average number of patients per fully qualified GP in the UK continues to rise and is now 2,298, meaning each GP is, on average, responsible for 158 more patients than they were five years ago.  

"As well as recruiting more medical students into GP training, we need to see immediate efforts to expand our retention initiatives, so that we can   keep up with growing demand for our care and train our next generation of GPs. However, the recent decision to close two national retention schemes suggests that we're moving in the wrong direction. Without strong initiatives in place to retain existing GPs we risk intensifying the workload crisis and losing the valuable professional experience. 

"Our manifesto outlines seven solutions – including appropriate resource allocation for recruitment and retention - that will help improve patient access to safe and timely care and ensure that there are enough GPs to safeguard the future of general practice and the wider NHS. Without dedicated ringfenced funding for national retention initiatives, we risk losing more GPs from the workforce and patients will increasingly struggle to access the care they need.” 

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.