A government-funded survey suggests that GP job satisfaction following the introduction of the current GMS contract is actually on the rise, contrary to claims that morale is at an all-time low.

The survey, carried out by the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre and published in the British Journal of General Practice, questioned more than 3,000 GPs in England between February 2004 and September 2005.

It found that, on seven-point scale, overall job satisfaction climbed from a 4.6 to 5.2, while, on scale of one-five, job pressure dropped from 3.4 to just 3.1 during the same 12-month period. But while the number of hours worked by GPs each week fell around five hours during 2005, it seems that the workload is becoming more intense, with 94% and 86% of respondents reporting a rise in administrative and clinical work, respectively.

“I think one of the saddest things is that the increase in morale evident in 2005 could have been maintained if the government hadn’t set out to denigrate GPs over the last couple of years,” Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, told GP newspaper Pulse, commenting on the findings. “I suspect if you surveyed people now, you’d get a very different response,” he added.

Indeed, the results certainly paint a very different picture from those of two much more recent surveys by the British Medical Association and healthcare provider Benenden, which suggest that GP morale is low.

According to the BMA’s survey of more than 11,000 doctors, one in six GPs has considered jumping ship as job satisfaction continues to decline and fears over the future of the profession are mounting. And a much smaller survey of 100 doctors by Benenden found that 10% were not satisfied with their jobs, 52% were unhappy with healthcare funding, and 62% said they were unhappy with their working relationships with regulators.

‘Draconian’ changes on the horizon?
“An awful lot can change in two and a half years, which is the time that has passed since this survey was conducted,” a BMA spokesperson told PharmaTimes UK News. “Since then, GPs have had two successive 0% pay awards and the government is threatening to force draconian changes to the contract on the profession.”

“Many GPs are incredibly worried about the way this government is forcing primary care to go”, she said, and added: “the BMA's survey from October 2007 showed nearly nine in ten GPs feel the intensity of their work has increased since the introduction of the contract. This ‘new’ survey is not an accurate reflection of the current mood among GPs”.