A STAFFORD doctors' leader says morale is at an all time low in the profession - as the British Medical Association warns that GP services are at risk of "imploding" because of growing demand and a shortage of doctors.
"In the profession as a whole, I have never seen morale so low," Dr Anne-Marie Houlder, chair of the Stafford and Surrounds Clinical Commissioning Group said. "I think it’s really on the edge. The fear is could it be worse – but it couldn’t be a great deal worse."
She told a CCG board meeting that growing numbers of doctors, particularly woman were choosing to work part-time or shorter hours, while doctors were also opting for "portfolio" careers in a range of roles, rather than remaining GPs.
"Gone are the days we had four men in a practice working eight or nine sessions," Dr Houlder said. "Most people want a portfolio career, they want to do other things as well and that reduces the workforce too.
And she added that newly qualified GPwere opting not to practice in the UK.
"GPs are flying out of this country going to Canada and Australia. They are signing up to emigrate in their droves. "
Meanwhile longer waits to see a GP in the UK are "becoming the norm", the British Medical Association has warned.
The doctors' union GP leader Dr Chaand Nagpaul said "chronic underfunding" meant patients were often having to wait one or two weeks for an appointment.
In a speech to the BMA conference today Dr Nagpaul said that consultations have risen by 40 million in England alone since 2008, hitting 340 million a year, according to the most recent figures.
Meanwhile the share of the NHS budget going to GPs was falling, he said. Figures from the Royal College of GPs show that in 2005/6 it was 10.7 per cent of NHS spending, but by 2011/12 it had fallen to 8.4 per cent.
Patients Association chief executive, Katherine Murphy said the pressure group was getting reports of patients waiting two or three weeks to see a doctor. She called for more investment - but also more flexibility from GPs in providing a better, round-the-clock service.