Family doctors face exodus of female GPs ‘unless they are given more support through the menopause’

Family doctors face an exodus of female GPs unless they are given more support through the menopause, an influential report has warned.

One in five female doctors in the UK are aged between 45-54, when menopause is likely to occur – about 10 per cent of the entire GP workforce.

They face symptoms such as anxiety, depression, poor concentration, brain fog, dizziness and insomnia while having to care for patients themselves.

Yet despite most working within the NHS, just one in seven said they felt supported by their employers with one in six reporting colleagues had been dismissive of symptoms.

One in five female doctors in the UK are aged between 45-54 when menopause is likely to occur – about 10 per cent of the entire GP workforce

A fifth said they have considered early retirement as a result, with two-thirds (65 per cent) feeling they had nowhere to turn at work for health, according to the Medical Protection Society (MPS) survey.

Experts warned the problem risked exacerbating the shortage of family doctors, which has seen numbers fall by nearly 500 since 2019, from 28,094 to 27,627.

Dame Jane Dacre, MPS President, said it was clear many women were ‘suffering in silence’ and needed more support.

She said: ‘It is striking that while most doctors report feeling confident in supporting and managing patients who are impacted by menopause symptoms, so many female doctors do not feel well supported at work when they are affected by these symptoms themselves.’


Menopause is when a woman stops having periods, and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.

It usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55.

It is a normal part of ageing and caused by levels of the sex hormone oestrogen dropping.

Some women go through this time with few, if any, symptoms.

Others suffer from hot flushes, sleeping difficulties, mood swings and brain fog, which can last for months or years and might change over time.

HRT replaces the hormones and is the main treatment used to treat symptoms — which can be severe and disrupt day-to-day life.

Menopause happens when your ovaries stop producing as much of the hormone oestrogen and no longer release an egg each month.

She added that while symptoms can vary in severity, they could be particularly challenging when working in a complex environment like healthcare.

Many are fearful mistakes could cause them to be sued, with one respondent saying ‘there is nowhere to hide as a frontline clinician if you are having an ‘off’ day. You have got to be just as good, just as competent every day.’

Another said: ‘The only matter where a woman can take time off for her reproductive health that is widely accepted is pregnancy – that’s the reality.’

A recent government report on the future of GPs warned many were ‘demoralised’, with more than 40 per cent of GPs and GP trainees set to leave general practice in the next five years.

Another described the UKs reliance on international medical graduates as ‘precarious’ with numbers up by 40 per cent in the last five years compared to just 10 per cent of UK graduates.

The MPS is calling for flexible working arrangements for clinicians struggling with menopause, such as making reasonable workplace adjustments and ensuring staff take breaks or time off when needed – without fear of adverse impacts on their career or professional reputation.

Managers and senior leaders in the NHS and in private healthcare settings should be trained in the subject and use occupational health teams to support staff.

Professor Dacre added: ‘Making improvements in this area is not only right and fair, it is also essential. If we do not destigmatise menopause, we may lose many skilled and passionate doctors during a time when the profession can ill-afford it.

‘A supportive culture will alleviate additional stress, enable these doctors to continue to perform at their best for patients, and thrive in their careers for longer.’

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