A growing number of doctors are contemplating leaving the medical profession, citing burnout and dissatisfaction as the primary reasons, the General Medical Council (GMC) has warned. The GMC's annual report on the medical workforce highlights concerns over the timing of the government's long-term strategy for the NHS. It suggests that the benefits of measures announced in the NHS long-term workforce plan will not be seen for at least a decade.
Although there was an increase in the number of licensed doctors in 2022, with 23,838 joining the profession and 11,319 leaving, high vacancy rates and workforce pressure persist, according to the GMC's report. The rate of doctors leaving the profession has returned to pre-pandemic levels, reaching 4% last year. The council flags "worrying signs" that dissatisfaction and the risk of burnout are prompting an increasing number of doctors to consider leaving, leaving only a limited window of opportunity to address these issues.
The report reveals that the growth in the medical profession is predominantly driven by international graduates, who accounted for 52% of new joiners. Additionally, 63% of new starters in 2022 had received training overseas. The GMC's CEO, Charlie Massey, views diversity in the workforce positively and believes that doctors trained abroad bring valuable experience that can enhance patient care. However, Emma Runswick, the BMA's deputy chair of council, argues that relying solely on international recruitment is not a sustainable solution to the healthcare crisis in the UK.
The government's NHS workforce plan aims to recruit over 300,000 nurses, doctors, and other health workers in the next 15 years. It also plans to double the number of medical school places to 15,000 by 2031 and increase the annual intake to 10,000 by 2028-2029. The GMC cautions that new medical school places will only be available from September 2025, and it typically takes five years to complete a medical degree. Therefore, the earliest qualified cohort from these new places would not be available until 2030.
The GMC further reveals that more doctors, students, and trainees are seeking greater flexibility in their careers, with an increasing number opting to work part-time. The challenges faced by the medical workforce require immediate attention to retain talented professionals and provide sustainable solutions for the future.
In response to the report, the Department of Health and Social Care states that it is committing over £2.4bn in the next five years to fund additional education and training places, along with record investments in education and training, reaching £6.1bn in the next two years. They highlight the record numbers of NHS hospital and community health service staff, including doctors and nurses, while acknowledging the need for ongoing support in terms of physical and mental well-being.