More data released showing GPs are a workforce in crisis

24 November 2022

Findings from the 2022 International Health Policy Survey of Primary Care Physicians across 10 high-income countries (including New Zealand) show that the challenges general practitioners and rural hospital doctors are facing here are, sadly, being experienced worldwide. 

After reviewing the findings, The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners is continuing to call for immediate action to address the issues which are negatively impacting the workforce and the communities who rely on the essential care that GPs provide. The top priority being the need to increase the GP workforce numbers. 

College Medical Director Dr Bryan Betty says, “These results are truly sobering. After reading this, there should be no doubt that what our workforce is going through can only be called a crisis. 

“The survey shows New Zealand GPs as having the highest rate of emotional distress in the under 55 age group since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (74 percent). The over 55 age group’s result was 45 percent.” 

The College’s own surveys also show a rise in burnout levels over recent years. The 2020 Workforce Survey showed 31 percent of the workforce was burnt out. Further engagement to understand the causes and experiences of burnout highlighted ‘prolonged overwork and a lack of resources’ as being top factors. 

The burnout results are not the only worrying statistic from this international survey.  

When it comes to retirement within the workforce, 59 percent of New Zealand GPs over 55 years old intend to stop seeing patients in the near future, which aligns with the results from the College’s 2020 Workforce Survey showing half of the workforce intends to retire by 2030. 

Dr Betty says, “The seriousness of what we face every day as GPs on the frontline is being seen and experienced right around the world.  

“With the major exodus of retiring GPs about to occur, and results showing younger medical professionals are feeling burdened by stress and burnout, it has never been more urgent to provide general practice and rural hospital medicine workforces with the support and resources we need to look after ourselves, so we can look after our patients. 

“We are the first point of call for the 94 percent of New Zealanders who are enrolled with a general practice. We are the only specialty who provide cradle to grave care and we need help now in order to keep providing this care,” says Dr Betty.