Medical student attitudes towards General Practice resulting from UK media portrayal of GP during the COVID-19 pandemic

Talk Code: 
Erin Lawson-Smith
Dr Sabena Jameel
Author institutions: 
University of Birmingham


General practice (GP) has long-standing difficulty with recruitment, with increasing strain on the workforce due to a multitude of factors including declining number of GPs, increased public expectations, and increasing number of patients per GP. A survey by the British Medical Association in 2021 found that GPs were responsible for, on average, 16% more patients than in 2015. Additionally, half of the respondents intended to work fewer hours after the pandemic and 16% intended to leave the NHS altogether. With demand increasing in this way, it is critical to inspire medical students’ interest in a career in GP to boost workforce numbers and ultimately maintain a high standard of primary care in the UK. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been increased media scrutiny, exacerbating pressures on GP. This research assesses whether increased media scrutiny has negatively affected medical student perspectives of GP. If so, increased efforts may be needed to incentivise students into GP to meet rising demands, and the media should reflect on the ramifications of their attacks.


An online survey was distributed to UK medical students via social media in Spring 2022. The survey contained both open and closed questions, to both quantitatively estimate the effect of media portrayal of GP on medical students and explore the reasons behind these effects. 277 medical students responded. 52 responses were incomplete, leaving 225 responses included for analysis. The principal investigator was a final year medical student.


88% of respondents (n=198) recalled seeing media about GP during COVID-19. 77% of these (n=154) felt the media stance towards GP was negative, and 47% (n=93) stated "yes" or "maybe" when asked if portrayal of GP in the media during COVID-19 had affected their view of GP. Of those who stated "yes" (n=40), 92.5% (n=37) said the effects were "somewhat" or "extremely" negative.


Results suggest that medical students have been negatively affected by the media portrayal of GP during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some students less likely to consider a career in GP as a result. More work is needed to counteract the deleterious effects of the pandemic and address the themes highlighted in this study to attract medical students to GP. This must be addressed as a priority if the increasing demands facing GPs are to be successfully met, while avoiding a decline in the standard of care provided to the public.

Submitted by: 
Erin Lawson-Smith
Funding acknowledgement: