Perceived future career prospects in general practice: quantitative results from questionnaire surveys of UK doctors

Br J Gen Pract. 2016 Nov;66(652):e848-e857. doi: 10.3399/bjgp16X687025. Epub 2016 Aug 30.


Background: There are more studies of current job satisfaction among GPs than of their views about their future career prospects, although both are relevant to commitment to careers in general practice.

Aim: To report on the views of GPs compared with clinicians in other specialties about their future career prospects.

Design and setting: Questionnaire surveys were sent to UK medical doctors who graduated in selected years between 1974 and 2008.

Method: Questionnaires were sent to the doctors at different times after graduation, ranging from 3 to 24 years.

Results: Based on the latest survey of each graduation year of the 20 940 responders, 66.2% of GPs and 74.2% of hospital doctors were positive about their prospects and 9.7% and 8.3%, respectively, were negative. However, with increasing time since graduation and increasing levels of seniority, GPs became less positive about their prospects; by contrast, over time, surgeons became more positive. Three to 5 years after graduation, 86.3% of those training in general practice were positive about their prospects compared with 52.9% of surgical trainees: in surveys conducted 12-24 years after graduation, 60.2% of GPs and 76.6% of surgeons were positive about their prospects.

Conclusion: GPs held broadly positive views of their career prospects, as did other doctors. However, there was an increase in negativity with increasing time since graduation that was not seen in hospital doctors. Research into the causes of this negativity and policy measures to ameliorate it would contribute to the continued commitment of GPs and may help to reduce attrition.

Keywords: career choice; general practice; job satisfaction; primary care; secondary care.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Career Choice*
  • Career Mobility
  • Female
  • General Practice*
  • Health Care Reform
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Personnel Loyalty
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • United Kingdom
  • Workforce