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Family doctors crisis revealed in GP survey; Health Focus.

Byline: Greg Tindle

FAMILY doctors in South Wales are on the warpath, calling for urgent action to resolve a crisis shortage of GPs across the region.

They say a new survey by the British Medical Association - the doctor's union - has revealed the desperate level of future problems facing the NHS unless action is taken.

Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the BMA's Welsh General Practitioners Committee which carried out the UK survey, said: "We are already critically short of family doctors.

For patients, the result is consultations that are too short.

"The detailed analysis of our survey results demonstrates that matters are likely to get worse.

"The newest recruits to general practice are not intending to follow the same full-time career path as their older colleagues.

"We have a particular problem in some of the valleys of South Wales where scores of doctors are nearing retirement and young doctors are showing a marked reluctance to take over from them.

"If we want to keep young doctors in the profession, and recruit more family doctors, radical changes to working conditions have to be made now. It makes a successful outcome to the current negotiations for a new GP contract even more crucial."

The results show that four out of ten of the youngest GPs want to reduce their hours of work in the next five years and the majority of those in their twenties intend to retire early.

More than three quarters of the youngest GPs are women, compared to only one in five female GPs in the 55 to 64 year old age group.

Among family doctors in their twenties and early thirties, nine out of ten feel improved child care arrangements should be provided, with seven out of ten believing that this will lead to a significant increase in the numbers of NHS GPs.

So far, with only a few years of general practice under their belts, morale among the youngest GPs is higher than older doctors.

In fact, the survey showed that while more than seven out of ten doctors aged 45 or over reported low morale, for GPs in their twenties this figure dropped to three in ten.

Single-handed practitioners are much more likely to be older doctors (16 per cent of GPs in the 55 to 64 years age bracket are single-handed doctors).

Younger doctors are more likely to think single-handed GPs should join together in groups to reduce professional isolation - the figures showing 45.9 per cent of under 30s compared to 27.3 per cent of doctors nearing retirement age.

Unlike their hospital colleagues, most GPs are not salaried doctors, but work as self-employed contractors. The youngest GPs are, however, much more in favour of the salaried option.

More than six out of ten doctors under 30 years of age say they are attracted by the idea of becoming a salaried GP. This enthusiasm decreases with age, with only 21 per cent of GPs nearing retirement age favouring the salaried option.

Whatever their age, more than 85 per cent of the 23,521 GPs who completed the survey which was carried out UK-wide, believe the great majority of general practice should continue to be provided in the NHS.

The doctors at the end of their career (those aged 65 and over) were more in favour than other GPs of expanding private general practice (37 per cent compared to an average of 25 per cent in younger age groups). However, when asked if they would prefer to work in the NHS rather than the private sector, if pay, conditions and workload were broadly comparable, almost nine out of 10 GPs in every age range under 65 answered "yes".

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CRISIS The growing shortage of GPs is creating stress for both doctors and patients.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 2, 2002
Words:628
Previous Article:Business forum.
Next Article:Health goes up in smoke; Health Focus - Pharmacy Focus with Peter Jenkins, community pharmacist practising in Abercynon.



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