Q Radio news
A quarter of GPs believe they will not be working in general practice in Northern Ireland in five years, research suggests.
Retirement and stress were among the most common reasons given during a major survey of sentiment amongst medics.
The Royal College of GPs in Northern Ireland (RCGPNI) called for better support for doctors' welfare.
A third of those surveyed by their professional body felt so stressed at least once a week that they could not cope, this year's results showed.
The report said: "The rate at which GPs are leaving the profession and the sustainability of general practice services continue to cause concern."
It added: "It is therefore vitally important that steps are taken to ensure that, where possible, GPs are retained within the service and the process by which GPs can return to practice is made as accessible as possible."
Retention and induction and refresher schemes exist to address these issues.
The report said: "These are not enough to meet the current challenges and we would like to see further investment in this area to increase the effectiveness of these programmes."
In the 2019 RCGPNI survey, 26% of those asked reported that they were unlikely to be working in general practice in five years' time.
The average number of registered patients per practice has increased by 11% since 2014.
The report called for a review of occupational health provision, with emphasis on mental health services for GPs, including how such schemes can be actively promoted.
Financial stability was also of major concern.
This year, 42% of GPs felt that it was not very or not at all sustainable to run a general practice in Northern Ireland.
Of those GPs, 79% stated professional indemnity costs as a reason for this unsustainability.
The cost of securing medical indemnity continues to rise in Northern Ireland and presents a significant financial burden.
RCGPNI chair Dr Grainne Doran said: "The challenges we face must be addressed.
"General practice, dealing with the majority of NHS patient contacts, must be supported and resourced to help our patients to find the right care, at the right time.
"It must be a priority for society and for decision makers to ensure that our health systems are fit for purpose and sustainable."