Reduce paperwork to retain young GPs, researchers say

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  07 Jan 2016

Reducing paperwork and slowing the pace of administrative change would help retain young GPs in the workforce, researchers have said.

The research, published in the British Journal of General Practice, found that many young GPs felt unsupported and vulnerable to burnout as a result of increases in their workload pressures and changes to the nature of their work.[1]

The research was commissioned by Health Education England and NHS England to investigate why “so many GPs leave the NHS below the age of 50 years.”

The researchers, from the University of Bath, University of Bristol, and Staffordshire University, surveyed 143 GPs under the age of 50 who had left the English medical performers’ list between 2009 and 2014. They also conducted telephone interviews with 21 of these GPs.

They recommended that, to improve retention of young GPs, “the pace of administrative change needs to be minimised and the time spent by GPs on work that is not face to face patient care reduced.”

The researchers found that the participants often had multiple reasons for leaving general practice, and many described changes to their working environment, caused by “an unprecedented increase in organisational changes.”

“According to participants, continual organisational changes fundamentally altered their professional role to a ‘government clerk’ or a ‘data clerk for public health and for management,’” the researchers wrote.

Of the GPs that responded to the survey, 50% said that rising non-clinical workload was a factor in their decision to leave general practice early, while 84% said that pressure of work contributed to their decision. “The higher administrative workload reduced the time available to spend with their patients, leading to a fundamental change in the doctor-patient relationship,” the researchers wrote.

The negative portrayal of GPs in the media, a lack of time for interaction with patients and colleagues, and a perceived blame culture also contributed to young GPs leaving the profession, the researchers found.

Responding to the findings, Tim Ballard, vice chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said in a statement that the amount of red tape and bureaucracy that GPs faced was overwhelming. This, he said, was “driving family doctors to leave our profession at a time when we should be doing everything possible to retain them.”

He added, “With more and more of our working hours being taken up with form filling, ticking boxes, and preparing for CQC [Care Quality Commission] practice inspections, we are drowning in red tape and this only serves to keep us away from delivering frontline patient care, which is why we become doctors in the first place.”


  1. Doran N, Fox F, Rodham K, Taylor G, Harris M. Lost to the NHS: a mixed methods study of why GPs leave practice early in England. Brit J Gen Pract  7 Jan 2016, doi: [Link] .

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: