Background: Job satisfaction is an important determinant of physician retention and turnover, and may also affect performance. Objective. Our aim was to investigate changes in GP job satisfaction from 1987 to 1998, covering a period of major change in the organization of British general practice.
Methods: Postal surveys of random national samples of GPs were carried out by separate groups of investigators in 1987, 1990 and 1998. In each survey, the questionnaire contained a standardized job satisfaction scale and a list of 14 job stressors. The final samples consisted of 1817 GPs in 1987 (response rate 45%), 917 GPs in 1990 (response rate 61%) and 1828 GPs in 1998 (response rate 49%).
Results: For both men and women, overall job satisfaction declined from 1987 to 1990 and then improved from 1990 to 1998, although satisfaction in 1998 remained below that in 1987. Women tended to report higher levels of satisfaction than men in all 3 years. Satisfaction with nine specific aspects of work showed dissimilar patterns of change over time. From 1987 to 1990, reported levels of stress increased for eight of 14 job stressors. Of these, three subsequently declined in 1998, two remained unchanged and three continued to increase. Of the six job stressors which showed no change from 1987 to 1990, five subsequently increased as sources of stress. Men and women differed in their sources of stress, but the differences were not consistent over time.
Conclusions: The results suggest that GP job satisfaction has improved significantly from the low point reached following the introduction of the 1990/1991 NHS reforms, although reported levels of stress in relation to many aspects of work have continued to increase. The changes are discussed within the context of wider research into the determinants of GP job satisfaction in order to anticipate the likely effects on GPs of future organizational reforms.