RECORD numbers of GPs want to quit the NHS, with the majority objecting to Skype appointments.
Nearly half are planning to switch jobs, with many blaming grinding workloads for walking away from patient care.
Medics felt most unhappy about NHS plans to roll out video consultation, new research reveals.
With the health service already facing a critical shortage of GPs, the exodus raises fears sick Brits will wait longer than ever to be seen.
One in ten now needs at least three weeks before getting a family doctor’s appointment.
The findings are also a blow to the “digital first” strategy championed by NHS boss Simon Stevens and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Officials promised all patients in England will be able Skype their family medic within two years.
The Warwick University study found 42.1 per cent of GPs intend to quit or cut their hours within the next five years.
The figure is up a third in three years – from 31.8 per cent.
Published in the journal BMJ Open, the research included responses from 929 GPs in the south of England.
WEB WORK FURY
They rated NHS initiatives to boost GP and nursing numbers, and investing in tech as the most positive.
But slammed the impact of video consultations and increasing reliance on medical assistants.
Lead author Professor Jeremy Dale, from Warwick Medical School, said: “Record numbers of GPs are either planning to take early retirement or reduce their hours.
“As more stop practicing, it means patients will find it harder to get an appointment.
“It is notable that video and e-consolation were the initiatives GPs felt most negative about.
“The majority did not think it is a good idea. They are concerned it will simply create more work for them.
“There’s a worsening crisis in general practice. The situation is bad, it is getting worse and GPs are feeling increasingly overworked and increasingly negative about the future.”
Around three in five said morale had worsened in the previous two years, while half said workload was unsustainable.
‘DIGITAL FIRST’ BLOW
Ministers have promised billions extra to hire an army of 20,000 support staff to help cut growing patient waiting times.
Under radical plans, physios and pharmacists will take over millions of routine GP appointments.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the NHS needs more family doctors.
She said: “Our workload has escalated in recent years, both in terms of volume and complexity, but we have fewer GPs than we did two years ago.
“The NHS long-term plan has aspirations that will be good for patients – but we will need the workforce to deliver it.”
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An NHS England spokesperson said: “*While this survey represents a tiny percentage of GPs in one local area – the NHS is offering financial and educational support to encourage GPs to stay, there are more GPs in training than ever before and – as set out in the Long Term Plan – the NHS is funding an army of 20,000 more staff to help GP practices building on the 5,000 extra practice staff working with GPs over the past four years.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “GPs are the bedrock of the NHS, and the Long Term Plan makes clear our commitment to the future of general practice, with primary and community care set to receive £4.5 billion more in real terms a year by 2023/24.”