Hawke's Bay GPs have joined others around the country to highlight the pressures and stress they are under as they cope with increasing workloads.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners intends to bring the issue to the attention of the Minister of Health this month, delivering messages obtained from GPs around the country who are taking part in college's GP -
Heart of the Community digital postcard project.

The campaign elicited 350 responses from GPs who commented on issues such as struggles with the demanding lifestyle many face, lack of resources, the ageing workforce and retirement considerations, and patient access to funding.

The campaign received 14 responses from Hawke's Bay, including Te Mata Peak practice GP David Doig who has practised for 16 years and said his workload had increased to an unsustainable level.

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"I will soon need to reduce my working hours to prevent my own physical and emotional health deteriorating irrecoverably," he said.

"If the funding model is not repaired urgently the workforce will be crushed under the weight of patient expectation and outsourcing of complex tasks from secondary care.

"I have never worked harder in my career with less financial and logistical support from government-funded agencies.

"We have been saying for years if you keep pushing too hard the workforce will break . . . in saying that, we work in the suburbs close to the DHB - it's even worse in the country. Rural GPs are getting crushed."

Another doctor who wished to remain anonymous said they had been a GP in Hawke's Bay for 23 years and, like many of their colleagues, planned to retire in the next 10 years.

"Primary care funding seems to shrink in real terms on an annual basis. Patients are ageing and their medical needs are more complex.

"It seems that successive Governments have relied on GP goodwill to keep getting the job done in the face of decreasing returns to the point where many practices are becoming marginal financially," they said.

Attracting young doctors into the profession was also increasingly difficult, they added.
Figures supplied by the college showed the GP workforce was ageing, with 57 per cent of GPs now aged 50 and over compared with 16 per cent in 1998.

In 1999 there were 84 full-time equivalent GPs per 100,000 New Zealanders, a ratio that dropped to 74 by 2012 and was expected to worsen, with a large number of retirements looming.

In Hawke's Bay 52 per cent of the GP workforce was expected to retire in the next one to five years.

Funding issues were also worsening, with a NZ Health Survey in 2014 showing that 14 per cent of New Zealanders chose not to see a GP because of the cost.

College president Tim Malloy said the comments received from GPs were "alarming".

"GPs are definitely feeling the pressure of having to deliver more services with less support.

"This is a real problem which could have a dire effect on the country if action isn't taken soon."

Dr Malloy was due to present a giant postcard with the messages to Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman at Parliament next Wednesday, July 26.