Trends and determinants of GPs' work hours in the UK: a quantitative study

BJGP Open. 2023 Sep 19;BJGPO.2022.0173. doi: 10.3399/BJGPO.2022.0173. Online ahead of print.


Background: Information on the hours of work of UK doctors is limited, and what exists relies on self-designed questionnaires in England.

Aim: To understand trends in the annual stock of physicians' hours and their main determinants.

Design & setting: A quantitative study in which data were collected from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) between 1998 and 2020, under the End User Licence (EUL), in the UK.

Method: Descriptive and linear regression models of labour supply for doctors (pooled), GPs, and hospital doctors.

Results: Between 1998 and 2020, while the headcount of doctors grew by 128.79% for hospital doctors and 45.28% for GPs, hours of work dropped by 20.80% for hospital doctors and 25.37% for GPs. Hence, the annual stock of hours grew by 81.20% for hospital doctors but by a modest 8.42% for GPs. Female doctors worked 8.68 fewer hours than males, with GPs reporting the largest reduction (-11.82 hours, 95% confidence interval [CI] = -13.31 to -10.33 and -6.75, 95% CI = -9.32 to -4.19, in the full specification). Family decisions are associated with a fall in doctors' work hours and modest growth in the annual stock of hours. These determinants and overtime are drivers of part-time work.

Conclusion: Despite the increase in the headcount of GPs, their hours of work dropped over the study period, generating a more steady and modest growth in their total annual stock of hours compared with hospital doctors. Female GPs work fewer hours than male GPs and are more likely to work part-time due to childbearing, marriage/co-habitation, and overtime work.

Keywords: childbearing; general practice; hours of work; physicians; primary health care.