Despite being a key player in the healthcare system, training and practising general practice has become less attractive in many countries and is in need of reform.
To identify political priorities for improving GPs' attraction to the profession and their retention within it.
Design and setting
Stakeholder face-to-face survey in Belgium, 2008.
A total of 102 key stakeholders were recruited from policymakers, professional groups, academia, GP leaders, and the media. All interviewees were asked to score 23 policies on four criteria: effectiveness in attracting and retaining GPs, cost to society, acceptance by other health professionals, and accessibility of care. An overall performance score was computed (from –3 to +3) for each type of policy — training, financing, work–life balance, practice organisation, and governance — and for innovative versus conservative policies.
Practice organisation policies and training policies received the highest scores (mean score ≥1.11). Financing policies, governance, and work–life balance policies scored poorly (mean score ≤0.65) because they had negative effects, particularly in relation to cost, acceptance, and accessibility of care. Stakeholders were keen on moving GPs towards team work, improving their role as care coordinator, and helping them to offload administrative tasks (score ≥1.4). They also favoured moves to increase the early and integrated exposure of all medical students to general practice. Overall, conservative policies were better scored than innovative ones (beta = –0.16, 95% confidence interval = –0.28 to –0.03).
The reforming of general practice is made difficult by the small-step approach, as well as the importance of decision criteria related to cost, acceptance, and access.