Background: A national survey of family physicians working in the National Health Service (NHS) of England in 2001 revealed that 1/10 under 50 years of age were intending to leave direct patient care within 5 years, and that the principal predictor of their intention to leave was job satisfaction. Our research addressed two questions. First, does a family physician's stated intention to leave their job predict whether or not they actually do leave? Second, to what extent does job satisfaction predict actually leaving?
Methods: Secondary data analysis was performed on 1174 family physicians aged 50 years and under, who responded to the aforementioned survey. Using data from the annual census of physicians in the NHS, we determined which physicians actually left family practice during the next 5 years.
Results: Of the 1174 family physicians studied, 194 (16.5%) had left direct patient care within 5 years. Multivariate regression showed that job satisfaction predicted a physician's intention to leave direct patient care and that intention to leave predicted actually leaving. Logically, job satisfaction should then have predicted actual leaving. Our findings, however, suggest that this is only partly true.
Conclusion: Although higher levels of job 'dissatisfaction' were associated with an increased likelihood of leaving, higher levels of job 'satisfaction' did not prevent leaving.