31 Mar 2023

Nearly two thirds of GPs plan to retire in next 10 years

11:52 am on 31 March 2023
Unknown woman-doctor typing on laptop computer while sitting at the table in sunny clinic.

Photo: 123rf

A Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners report released today says nearly two thirds of GPs plan to retire in the next 10 years.

The report shows 79 percent of GPs surveyed experienced some form of burnout and nearly a third would no longer recommend the job to others.

College president Dr Samantha Murton said if the more than 400 GPs aged over 64 were to retire tomorrow nearly 750,000 New Zealanders would be without a doctor.

A quarter of New Zealand's GP workforce was aged over 62, she said.

Most professions would not have such a large proportion of their workers over 62 and more should be done to encourage trainee GPs, she said.

Trainee doctors should be incentivised towards positions in the community to boost flagging numbers of GPs and rural hospital doctors, Dr Murton said.

"This is really about having systems around those people so that they can not have to do 24/7 calls seven days a week, there needs to be fat in the system so that people have a chance to do self-care and we don't have any chance to do that because we only get money if we're in front of a patient."

More needed to be done to address issues that had left doctors feeling more burnt-out, overworked and under-valued than ever before, she said.

Each GP in New Zealand oversaw hundreds more patients than their counterparts in other countries did, she said.

GPs did not earn anywhere near what other specialists would, Dr Murton said.

"When you look at the survey most of us are working an average of 34 hours a week seeing patients, so that's the paid hours, and then we're doing another extra eight hours unpaid, so that means our actual income's reduced by 20 percent."

Dr Murton said if she worked at the after-hours service she was paid $105 per hour but Te Whatu Ora had offered $150 per hour for some work that was needed.

She justified what may seem like a large amount to some by saying that GPs had done more than 11 years of training, held people's healthcare in high regard and had high levels of responsibility.

"There's a lot of responsibility with the role, there's a lot of commitment with the role and the reason that we have a large number who are working late into their career is because they take on that responsibility seriously."

The survey showed that nearly one third of GPs would not recommend general practice as a career.

Dr Murton said the surveys have been done every two years for the last 10 years or so.

"We've watched this steady decline, this is 70 percent of a workforce saying our work conditions are deteriorating and no one's making a change."

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners 2022 Workforce Survey had 3488 respondents, or 70 percent of the college's membership.

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