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Newly-qualified GPs among most vulnerable to burnout, says top GP

One in four of the GPs accessing the national GP mental health service are in their first five years of training, Professor Clare Gerada had said.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event on the future of general practice today, the leader of the support service Professor Gerada said 1,500 GPs have accessed the service since it was launched in January 2017.

The former RCGP chair said a quarter of these GPs ‘are within their first five years of training’ and ‘tend to present with anxiety’.

She said: ‘What tends to happen with these doctors is they move from a relatively well-protected environment in their training practice into the locum market because… this market [is] perceived as a much easier place to work…

‘They become very anxious that they’ve made an error and the anxiety compounds if they aren’t able to go back to the practice and actually see what they’ve done.’

Overall, she said two thirds of the GPs that attend the service have mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, while another 10% have problems with addiction.

A survey last month revealed that two in five GPs have experienced mental health problems, including conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Meanwhile, last year Pulse revealed that one in nine GPs has turned to alcohol because of work pressures, while 6% have turned to prescription drugs.

Professor Gerada added that the rise in patient complaints as well as the lack of time available for GPs to reflect on ‘the emotional impact’ of their practise has led to ‘a workforce that’s 50, 60, 70% burnt out’.

She said the profession has ‘to declutter what’s currently going on in our practices and one of those is the burden of mandatory and statutory training’, which she said amounts to 30 hours per year.

She said: ‘One of the things we’re trying to do is to lobby to replace - not that we stop the training that needs to be done in those mandatory requirements but actually they’re done… in peer reflective practice groups, acknowledging that medicine, working as a doctor, is a relational activity which you do with others.’ 

It comes as a BMA poll of nearly 8,000 doctors found that 95% are fearful of making a medical error related to worforce and workload pressures.

Readers' comments (8)

  • What Now?

    ‘They become very anxious that they’ve made an error and the anxiety compounds if they aren’t able to go back to the practice and actually see what they’ve done.’

    General practice is about making hypotheses and starting treatment
    if you get it right great
    if no improvement you revise your thinking and try something else
    that's how the process works

    Two words "SAFETY NET"
    Review in ....
    Urgent attention if any deterioration

    p.s. there's nothing stopping you from going back to a practice to check something..

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  • Why are doctors with conditions that make them unsuitable for the job being recruited into training?

    Why is training so poor at equipping doctors with the survival skills needed?

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  • Macaque

    Thank you Clare for stating the obvious. And this is partly because senior partners see the newly qualified as 'Fresh Meat' and exploit them!

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  • How can a GP who has only 6 months of secondary care general medicine training not be anxious once they are deemed "excellent" by virtue of passing MRCGP and are then left with the responsibility that falls upon them as the last of the generalists?

    The concept of Rumsfelds "known unknowns" is enough to explain the anxiety alluded to above.

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  • Please stop referring to "Top GP's" You are a Blue top, not a Red top and the classification is contentious.

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  • Please explain what a TOP GP is? TOTALLY OUT OF PRACTICE!!

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  • Agree pulse please stop this silly “top GP” business which Dr Gerada’s fellow top GP dr Mavan was labelled as before his exposure.

    The new trainee contract will not help reduce this problem as they have enough less realistic exposure.

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  • You CANNOT go back to the practice to find out , The reasons are that you are working somewhere else and not able to visit in Office hours or send an email.Yyou would not be allowed this information even if you did . Data protection and MIC rules + mission creep means no info for locums . If you are going to survive being a locum or even a any kind of doctor you need to Cover Your Arse with expansive notes and treatment / all inevitablities plan and then walk away and forget /let go.

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