Nearly half of the primary care workforce is considering quitting their professions this year, according to Cogora’s latest survey, which unveils a sector struggling with rising stress levels, low morale and unrealistic patient demands. 

An overwhelming 44% of the 2,386 GPs, practice managers, practice and community nurses and community pharmacists surveyed reveal they are thinking of leaving their jobs in the coming year. This includes a quarter of respondents who are not even close to retirement age. 

The worrying findings are presented in Cogora’s sixth Primary Concerns report, which this year takes the title of The State of Primary Care 2018, and provides an insight into the current state of the sector from the healthcare professionals who know it best. 

The survey of the readers of Cogora’s five primary care publications- PulseManagement in PracticeNursing in PracticeHealthcare Leader and (for the first time) The Pharmacist- suggests that rising workload, lack of resources and feeling ‘overworked, overwhelmed and underpaid’ are driving the workforce to quit. 

One GP partner describes the job as ‘unsustainable’, with them starting each day with dread and ‘firefighting’ from the moment they walk into the practice. A salaried GP says they want to get out before they become the ‘last man standing’, ‘We are too small an army for the job required,’ they said. 

Many respondents describe the job as having devastating effects on their mental health. One-third report that stress at work has become so bad that they have already taken time off work or expect to the coming year. 

Their battle with stress and burnout is even spilling over into patient care. Around half of superintendent pharmacists, pharmacy contractors and salaried GPs say their stress levels are having an impact on how they treat their patients (58%, 54% and 48%, respectively). 

Readers were quizzed on a range of aspects of primary care, including how often they face patient abuse, changes in their prescribing habits, the effect of medicine shortages and what impact the GP Forward View and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) have had on patient care. 

For the sixth year running, morale remains low among staff, with the decision makers- GP partners, pharmacy contractors and superintendent pharmacists- feeling it the most. 

Across all job roles, the highest influencer of low morale is unrealistic demand from patients. Feeling unappreciated by management and workload from other sectors (‘workload dumping’) are also high on their lists. 

And as the original deadline for Brexit approaches, respondents give their verdict on how they believe it will affect the NHS, with less than an optimistic response. Three-quarters thought it would have a negative impact on the number of nurses working in the NHS and 71% said it would adversely affect the number of GPs. 

But it is the effect on medicine supplies that is causing the most concern, with 64% saying they thought the UK leaving the EU would have a negative impact on the availability of drugs and 54% thought it would lead to community pharmacies stockpiling. 

For more information on the report and survey, contact Cogora’s Group Editor, Gemma Collins, or 0207 214 0614.