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Why are Dutch GPs so much happier?

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 29 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6870
  1. Sophie Arie, freelance journalist, London
  1. sarie{at}

General practice is similar in the Netherlands and the UK yet it appeals far more to young Dutch doctors than to their British counterparts. In collaboration with the Dutch medical journal Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, Roger Damoiseaux, professor of general practice, and Margaret McCartney, Glasgow GP and The BMJ columnist, met to try to work out why. Sophie Arie reports

In many ways, the daily work of a general practitioner in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom is similar. Working hours, pay, and time spent with patients are comparable (table). Increasing numbers of GPs work part time in both countries, and they struggle with the same pressures of caring for an ageing population amid constant cuts to welfare, social services, and healthcare.

View this table:

How general practice compares in the UK and the Netherlands

Yet the job is respected and popular in the Netherlands, with 1250 young medical graduates competing for 750 trainee posts last year, whereas 451 GP trainee posts were unfilled in the UK in 2014. In a wide ranging discussion with Roger Damoiseaux, professor of general practice at Utrecht University, Glasgow GP Margaret McCartney says the public image of the profession in the UK and the policies of the current government are part of the reason. Damoiseaux points to several key strengths of the profession in the Netherlands that may explain why it is stronger both politically and in terms of status …

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