Trends in doctors' early career choices for general practice in the UK: longitudinal questionnaire surveys

Authors: Lambert, Trevor; Lambert, Trevor; Goldacre, Michael; Goldacre, Michael

Source: British Journal of General Practice, 1 July 2011, vol. 61, no. 588, pp. e397-e403(7)


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The percentage of newly qualified doctors in the UK who want a career in general practice declined substantially in the 1990s. The English Department of Health expects that half of all doctors will become GPs.


To report on choices for general practice made by doctors who qualified in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008, and 2009.

Design and setting

A structured, closed questionnaire about future career intentions, sent to all UK medical graduates.


Questionnaires sent 1 year after qualification (all cohorts) and 3 years after (all except 2008 and 2009).


Percentages of doctors who expressed an unreserved first choice for general practice in the first year after qualification, in the successive five cohorts, were 22.2%, 20.2%, 23.2%, 21.3%, and 20.4%. Percentages who expressed any choice for general practice — whether first, second or third — were 46.5%, 43.4%, 52.6%, 49.5%, and 49.9%. Three years after qualification, an unreserved first choice was expressed, in successive cohorts, by 27.9%, 26.1%, and 35.1%. Doctors from newly established English medical schools showed the highest levels of choice for general practice.


The percentage of doctors, in their first post-qualification year, whose first choice of eventual career was general practice has not changed much in recent years. By year 3 after qualification, this preference has increased in recent years. At years 1 and 3, the overall first choice for general practice is considerably lower than the required 50%, but varies substantially by medical school. In depth studies of why this is so are needed.

Keywords: career choice; general practice; junior doctors; medical education; workforce planning

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: UK Medical Careers Research Group, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, Oxford

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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