GPs now considering early retirement over strain of recent months

Almost 60pc of surveyed Irish GPs are considering early retirement or resigning as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, new research has fo...

Almost 60pc of surveyed Irish GPs are considering early retirement or resigning as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, new research has found.

The independent survey of GPs around the country highlights the stress that the pandemic is putting on doctors.

Asked whether the pandemic was causing them to reflect on their careers, 38pc of the surveyed GPs said it would hasten their retirement plans and 21pc said they are considering resignation.

Some GPs reported a wish to change career within or outside of medicine, and many spoke of increased stress levels, burnout and exhaustion during Covid-19.

The survey was carried out before the huge surge of Covid-19 cases in October, which saw GPs being asked to help trace confirmed cases after HSE contact teams were overwhelmed by huge daily numbers.

Sourcing locum cover is a long-running issue in general practice in Ireland which has also been exacerbated by the pandemic – more than 80pc of GPs responding to the survey reported difficulty sourcing locum cover, with only one in eight believing they would be able to get locum cover for urgent reasons at short notice, such as a bereavement or personal ill-health.

Over 60pc of the GPs said they had been unable to take annual leave in the last year due to not being able to get a locum, with half saying shortages of locum cover also stopped them attending necessary professional training events.

Almost half of the GPs (48pc) reported they would consider temporarily closing the practice if all their doctors needed to self-isolate due to potential Covid-19 symptoms, while fewer than one in five (18pc) said they would be able to source locum cover.

Most GPs (74pc) said they would work from home via telephone if medically able to do so, and 18pc said they would arrange cross-cover with neighbouring practices.

Only 22pc of the surveyed GPs worked in practices with more than three GPs.

Wexford GP Dr Catherine O’Donohoe, who carried out the survey, said that given most of the GPs were working in single/two-handed practices, large sections of Irish general practice “are at risk of becoming unviable, particularly under the additional challenges posed by Covid-19. It is essential that the State moves as a matter of urgency to counteract this risk”.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Dr O’Donohoe said consideration should be given to creating a national State-employed locum pool, given the difficulties that GPs are now experiencing in sourcing cover.

She added that the GP practice support subsidy should be updated so that all practices can benefit under a pro rata basis, and consideration needs to be given to adding “healthcare assistants” to the available allowances.

If the Government does not help address the locum cover issue for general practice as a priority, “I have no doubt that increased numbers of GPs will sustain burnout”, Dr Donohoe told the Sunday Independent.

“This would have a detrimental effect on the long-term delivery of general practice services in the community.”

This web-based survey, which received 355 responses in total, ran from August 12 to 31, and was communicated to GPs via the online forums of the National GP Forum and

A total of 164 of respondents and their GP colleagues were in the 55-64 years age group, 69 were aged 65-70, and 22 were aged over 70 years.

The findings come after a separate survey found that over a third (34pc) of Irish doctors say they have suffered verbal or physical abuse from patients, or patients’ relatives during Covid-19.

The Medical Protection Society survey, carried out in September with 361 responses, also showed that a further 7pc of doctors have experienced verbal or physical abuse from a member of the public outside a medical setting, with some saying they have been shouted at in the street.

Sunday Independent

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Newsrust: GPs now considering early retirement over strain of recent months
GPs now considering early retirement over strain of recent months
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