More than half of GPs say NHS reforms are a factor for them retiring, shows BMA survey

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 09 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3608
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1London

NHS reforms are cited by more than half of GPs who plan to retire in the next two years as a reason for them leaving the profession, show results of a BMA survey.

Altogether 1413 (14%) out of the first 10 000 respondents to the National Survey of GP Opinion said they planned to retire in the next two years with most (71%, 942 out of 1413) citing age as a reason for doing so. But the next most common reason given for retiring was the NHS reforms (cited by 56%). Revalidation (cited by 38%) and changes to pension taxation (cited by 27%) were also common reasons given for retiring.

If these results are extrapolated they suggest that about 6700 GPs from across the UK will retire in the next two years, with 3700 citing the NHS reforms as a factor in their decision. The BMA could not say whether this number was more or less than the number of GPs who normally retire.

To date 18 000 GPs have responded to the survey, which was sent out on 7 April, giving a response rate of nearly 39%, a large increase on the previous national GP survey conducted in 2007, to which 25% responded. The survey asked GPs about their working practices along with questions on current health policy.

On 7 June prime minister David Cameron committed the government to “five guarantees” on the future of the NHS in a speech in which he tried to reassure critics that the health service was safe in the hands of the coalition. The prime minister promised to keep waiting lists low, maintain spending, not to privatise the NHS, keep care integrated, and ensure the NHS remains “national.”

However, further results from the survey suggest that many GPs are unhappy with aspects of the reforms planned for England.

The survey found that three quarters of respondents had a representative from their practice on their local GP consortium and that nearly one in five of GPs who were contractors or principals in England were personally involved in the consortium. But two thirds of GPs said they were not confident that consortiums would be appropriately skilled or supported.

GPs also agreed that it was important to have consultants and public health doctors involved in running consortiums, but that including local councillors was least important.

However, most GPs (seven out of 10) were concerned at the potential conflicts of interest between members of GP consortiums and their patients and between GPs as commissioners and providers of services to consortiums.

Speaking ahead of the conference of local medical committees on June 9 Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GPs committee, said: “These results show that GPs have significant concerns about the government’s NHS reform plans as they stand. From talking to GPs we know that they see potential in the principle of clinically led commissioning, but there need to be major changes made to the bill if the government is to reassure GPs.

“If these reforms are to stand any chance of being successful, the government must carry health professionals with them. Ensuring that there is an explicit duty on commissioning consortia to fully involve all relevant clinical staff in commissioning and changing the role of Monitor to encourage collaboration among NHS providers rather than competition, are key changes to the Bill that the BMA has been seeking. Above all, patients must be reassured that their GP continues to place their needs at the heart of any clinical decisions and the bill must be amended to ensure that this trusted relationship is preserved.”

Interim results from the National Survey of GP Opinion are at


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3608

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