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Poll shows 40% of GPs have mental health problems

'Relentless' workload is affecting GP mental health

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Around 40% of GPs say they are experiencing a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to results of a survey of GPs released today.

The survey of 1,066 GPs across England and Wales carried out by mental health charity Mind, found that despite the high prevalence of mental health problems among GPs, many said they felt unable to seek help or support from colleagues.

In the survey, GPs said that they were more likely to look for support with their mental health from friends and family (86%), or their own doctor (79%).

Fewer said they would seek support from their colleagues (48%) their practice manager (33%) or professional bodies such as the GMC (1%).

Mind acknowledged that the government and NHS England were taking steps to address poor mental health among GPs, for example by setting up a confidential NHS support service for GPs, but said there were still problems with attracting and retaining primary care staff.

The charity is calling on CCGs and GP practices to ensure the whole primary care workforce receives appropriate support when needed and has workplace policies and procedures in place to better promote staff wellbeing.

It also wants the government and NHS to do more to tackle the work-related causes of stress and poor mental health such as excessive workload and long hours.

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at Mind, said: “These figures are really concerning. We knew from talking to primary care staff that many of them were experiencing poor mental health but hadn’t realised just how prevalent mental health problems were among GPs.

“Our research shows a lot of primary care professionals don’t feel comfortable talking to peers and colleagues if they’re struggling with their mental health.

“Too much pressure and other demands cause stress, which can lead us to become unwell, both physically and mentally. Those working in a GP surgery are no exception where long working hours and excess workload are often the norm. Primary care staff do a stressful job day in, day out, but too often aren’t getting the support they need.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “Given the intense pressures currently facing general practice, this very high proportion of GPs living with mental health problems is deeply concerning, but not a total surprise.

“GPs work incredibly hard, often putting in 12-hour days in clinic, making upwards of 60 patient contacts a day, and dealing with huge amounts of administrative work. This relentless workload will inevitably take its toll on both doctors’ physical and mental health and wellbeing, however resilient they may be.

“More needs to be done to solve the root cause of the untenable workload and pressures that GPs are dealing with, and that means more resources, and more doctors and practice team members working in UK general practice.”

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, British Medical Aassociation (BMA) GP committee executive team workforce lead, said: “Given the intense pressure GPs are under to meet rising patient demand with inadequate resources, it is no surprise that their own mental health is suffering as a result.

“This report is extremely concerning and highlights the need for better support for GPs and their teams. The BMA is calling for a properly-funded universal occupational health service, so that GPs and the wider practice staff are able to access the support they need, and in turn are better equipped to care for their patients.”

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