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GPs getting no support as more confess to 'finding life difficult'

GPs say they

are stressed but trying to cope ­ Nerys Hairon takes a look at the results of a Pulse survey

More than half of GPs still do not have access to occupational health services, a Pulse survey reveals.

The finding came as one GP in four said they were 'finding life difficult' and 58 per cent said they were more stressed than a year ago.

Some 68 per cent of GPs also said they expected their stress to increase in the next 12 months ­ the first year of the new GP contract.

GP leaders condemned the failure of primary care organisations to set up occupational health services for GPs.

RCGP chair Professor David Haslam said: 'One of the groups that has to deal with the most stressful things in society ought to have the best occupational health service and tragically as yet they do not.'

A BMA survey last year found one in five primary care trusts in England had failed to put in place an occupational health service for GPs, ignoring two Government deadlines.

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said LMCs were not telling GPs about the services on offer: 'You only find out about them if you ask your LMC. We have told

LMCs to make GPs aware if they do exist and it's not for want of telling them.'

Some 18 per cent of 569 GPs who responded said they did not feel 'fit and well' in their state of mind, with a further 5 per cent saying they were depressed. Nearly four GPs out of five complained they were 'stressed but coping'.

GPs said the major causes of stress were spiralling workload, pressure from patients and a proliferation of clinical protocols and guidelines (see graph).

Professor Bonnie Sibbald, deputy director of the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre at the University of Manchester, said the findings echoed her research, which found workload was the leading cause of stress.

She added: 'Any major changes in the GP contract or in primary care organisation also create stress as GPs adapt to new arrangements.'

Dr Paul Fletcher, a GP in Plymouth who said he was 'stressed but coping', said constant change in general practice was a major factor in sparking anxiety.

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