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Dealing with the doctor shortage: a qualitative study exploring French general practitioners' lived experiences, difficulties, and adaptive behaviours.

Family Practice 2024 March 25
CONTEXT: The shortage of general practitioners (GPs) is a growing concern in Europe, especially in France. This problem is likely to continue until the end of the 2020s.

OBJECTIVES: To study the GPs' perceptions of access to care in medically underserved areas (i.e. with low physician density), its consequences on their working conditions, and how they cope with the resulting difficulties.

METHODS: Semi-structured individual interviews were conducted between May and August 2021 of 29 GPs practising in areas of southeastern France with a low physician density or at risk of a doctor shortage. Purposive sampling was used to include profiles of diverse physicians and diverse rural and urban areas. The interviews, conducted with an interview guide, were transcribed and analysed thematically.

RESULTS: The participants described a serious degradation of access to care in their areas. These issues also concerned urban areas, where they were, according to the participants, underrecognized. The participants' workloads were rising, at a rate often perceived as unsustainable: many participants, including the youngest group, reported they were exhausted. Their principal source of dissatisfaction was their impression that they could not do their work correctly. Participants reported that these difficulties required them to improvise and adapt without any official or formal method to keep their practice manageable.

CONCLUSION: These GPs were worried about the future of their profession and their patients. They expected strong measures by public policymakers and officials, but paradoxically seemed to have little interest in the solutions these officials are promoting.

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