Ten percent of GPs are not satisfied with their jobs and 52% are unhappy with healthcare funding, a small survey by private healthcare provider Benenden has revealed.

The survey of 100 GPs also indicated that doctors and regulators are failing to mesh properly in working with each other, after 62% said they were unhappy with their working relationships with regulators.

Almost half of respondents said their workload was too high, but despite the government’s attempts to increase local decision-making and accountability in primary care, 22% said they did not have enough autonomy over their own work. And nearly one in five felt they weren’t being paid enough.

The findings suggest that the government’s healthcare reforms have some way to go to address GPs’ current dissatisfaction with the system and boost working conditions and morale. Furthermore, they closely echo those of a much larger survey of over 11,000 doctors by the British Medical Association, which found that one in six GPs has considered jumping ship as morale continues to fall.

According to the BMA, a key root of doctors’ unease is the government’s increasing reliance on privatisation for service improvement, as well as widespread feeling that the core values of general practice are being undermined to the detriment of patient care. In addition, it said too much emphasis is being placed on cost-cutting and quantity of care rather than quality.

Another headache for GPs seems to be the saga surrounding out-of-ours care. In 2004, a radical change was introduced into the GP contract that allowed doctors to opt out of out-of-hours care for a pay cut of just 6%, leaving primary care trusts with the responsibility of dealing with the approximate nine million who require such care in England every year. However, the tables are turning yet again, with extending access to primary care now a flagship component of the government’s service reform, with responsibility being handed back to GPs.

'Exceptionally' busy
“Our research clearly suggests that GPs are exceptionally busy and are suffering from the amount of work they have to do,” commented Benenden’s Jakki Stubbington. “Pressure from above – a lack of funding and constant government targets – is allied to pressure from below – greater workloads and more demanding patients. This means that GPs feel overworked and under-appreciated, so their morale suffers.”

“Given these factors, we expect them to rely increasingly on viable alternatives, including independent healthcare, to take some of the patient workload off themselves in future,” she concluded.