GPS in Worcestershire are under so much pressure many are choosing to retire early, medical experts have said.
Research from the British Medical Association (BMA) has shown heavy workloads and falling resources have led six out of ten GPs to consider retiring early and three out of ten to contemplate leaving general practice.
In a letter to your Worcester News, BMA representative for GPs in the West Midlands Dr Bob Morley said many older, experienced doctors had chosen to leave the profession early in recent years.
“Just a few years ago it was unusual for a GP to retire early, but unmanageable workloads and plummeting morale have led to both younger and older doctors across the West Midlands leaving the profession,” he said.
“I am helping more GPs than ever with stress related issues and have witnessed cases where the increasing pressure, workload, and demand on doctors have left them suffering with both physical and mental health problems.”
Dr Morley said it was particularly worrying to see the amount of GPs in their fifties seeking early retirement or reducing their working hours had increased dramatically while many younger doctors were choosing to work abroad, which he warned could create a “serious workforce crisis”.
“We cannot ignore this problem any longer,” he said. “We need politicians to help meet the challenges facing general practice and value the hard work done by GPs and their practice staff by supporting them appropriately.”
Secretary of Worcestershire Local Medical Committee – an organisation representing the interests of GPs throughout the county – Dr Simon Parkinson said the problem had reached crisis levels.
“A few years ago the average consultation per person per year was four, now it’s between seven and eight,” he said. “In that time there hasn’t been a doubling of GP resources – there’s been a reduction.
“It’s awful if you can’t get an appointment to see your doctor but there’s only so much jam in the jar and we’ve had to spread it so thin.
“It’s not good for our job satisfaction and it’s not good for patients.”
He added many posts being vacated by retirees were remaining vacant, or only being filled with part-timers.
“There has been a large number of very experienced doctors making the decision to leave early in the past 18 months,” he said. “They’re a real loss.
“Not long ago we had a massive row with the government because they wanted to fix the retirement age at 70 while so many wanted to stay on.
“Now we can’t keep them until 70.”
Although the total number of GPs across Worcestershire has increased in recent years, the amount of these who are part-time has also increased, meaning the amount of overall hours worked has decreased.