Around 40% of GPs are considering quitting the NHS, according to a major new survey.
Academics at Exeter Medical School surveyed more than 2,000 GPs, with over half reporting low morale.
Spirit among doctors has been described previously as perilously low by groups representing healthcare professionals, and this is leading to a crisis in frontline healthcare.
Despite the apparent staffing difficulties within the healthcare system, Jeremy Hunt is still pushing forward with the vision of the government for a seven-day NHS service.
This will result in GP surgeries be open every day, from 8 am to 8 pm, while doctor generalists will also be placed in accident and emergency departments.
But the British Medical Association is sceptical about the Government vision, suggesting that GPs are already struggling to cope with rising patient demand, stagnating budgets and widespread staff shortages.
And the BMA believes that this is only likely to be exacerbated in the coming months, once the impact of Brexit kicks in.
Researchers involved in the study suggested that the government must take action more swiftly and efficiently than had been believed previously if a major crisis is to be averted.
The number of GPs working full-time has fallen, according to figures published last month, despite Government proposals to recruit 5,000 more by the end of the decade.
And clearly the GP profession is facing several further pressures, which are set to compound the situation.
Official figures indicate that there are currently 34,500 GPs working within the NHS system, and this represents a decrease of 0.3% from just the twelve months ago.
Meanwhile, a BMA survey of 3,500 GPs in England found around one-third of practices had vacancies for doctors they had been unable to fill for at least a year.
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), believes that the NHS is facing the biggest challenge in its entire history, with the situation in general practice particularly critical.
“General practice is currently facing intense workload and resource pressures – these figures show it is severely impacting our workforce, and we fear they are indicative of the situation right across the UK. The future of the NHS relies on having a robust general practice service, with enough GPs to deliver the safe care and services our patients need.”
While Dr Krishna Kasaranei, of the BMA, asserted that many doctors would consider their positions and futures considering the perilous and frankly unacceptable state of the NHS system.
“Many GPs are voting with their feet because of the daily struggle of trying to provide enough appointments to patients without the resources or support they need. Given the uncertainty of whether the UK’s departure from the European Union will result in more overseas doctors leaving the NHS, this shortage could well get even worse in the years to come.”