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Key points

  • The Health Foundation worked with the Commonwealth Fund to survey 9,526 primary care physicians across 10 high-income countries between February and September 2022. This included 1,010 GPs from the UK. We analysed the survey data to understand the experiences of GPs in the UK and how they compare to other countries.
  • A majority of GPs in all countries are dealing with higher workloads than before the pandemic – and many have experienced greater stress and signs of emotional distress. But the experience of GPs in the UK should ring alarm bells for government. 71% say their job is ‘extremely’ or ‘very stressful’ – the highest of the 10 countries surveyed alongside Germany. 
  • Things have been getting worse for UK GPs. GPs in the UK were among the most satisfied of any country back in 2012. Now just 24% of UK GPs are ‘extremely’ or ‘very satisfied’ with practising medicine – similar to France but lower than all other countries surveyed. UK GPs are among the most likely to plan to stop seeing patients regularly in the next 1 to 3 years.
  • Half of GPs in the UK think the quality of care they can provide to patients has got worse since the start of the pandemic – and only 14% think it has improved. But the survey also illustrates some of the core strengths of general practice in the UK, including a high proportion of GPs feeling well prepared to manage care for patients with complex needs, and strong performance compared with other countries in use of data to inform care. 
  • Decisive policy action is needed to improve the working lives of GPs in the UK – including to boost GP capacity and reduce workload. Policymakers considering options for primary care reform should recognise the strengths of general practice in the UK and work with the profession rather than against it. 

GPs in the UK are under extreme strain and public satisfaction with general practice has plummeted. Pressures on general practice are not unique to the UK and GPs around the world are contending with the impact of the pandemic on their patients and working lives.

The 2022 Commonwealth Fund survey compares perspectives from GPs across 10 high‑income countries. The survey asked GPs’ views about their working lives and wellbeing, quality of care and how services are delivered. We analysed the survey data to understand the experiences of GPs in the UK and how they compare to other countries.

The survey has been running for several years but the 2022 survey is the first since the COVID-19 pandemic, so we also added questions about its impact on GPs. Taken together, the data help tell us how general practice is changing internationally – for better and for worse.

Cite this publication

Beech J, Fraser C, Gardner G, Buzelli L, Williamson S, Alderwick H. Stressed and overworked. The Health Foundation; 2023 (https://doi.org/10.37829/HF-2023-P12).

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