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Profession heading for burnout, GPs at Pulse Live warn

Practices are facing unprecedented workload pressures as a result of the imposed GP contract, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told the Pulse Live conference today, as delegates backed a motion warning that ‘GPs are all heading for burnout’.

A clear majority of around 500 GPs who packed out the conference in Birmingham voted in favour of the motion, after a passionate debate from a panel of GPs.

It comes as Pulse launched its ‘Battling Burnout’ campaign which aims to raise awareness of the pressures GPs face, and offers readers the opportunity to take a burnout assessment based on the validated Maslach Burnout Inventory tool.

The motion at the debate was proposed by Dr Hamed Khan, a board member of the south London faculty of the RCGP and a GP in Surrey, who argued that increased workload, less remuneration, an increased threat of litigation and uncertainty over health reforms were causing widespread burnout.

Dr Khan, who is also media secretary of the online GP forum Tiko’s GP Group, cited several regional examples of GPs presenting to various health and wellbeing services with stress-related issues, and said Nottinghamshire LMCs had reported that half the referrals for CBT were for GPs.

And GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey, seconding the motion, was applauded for an impassioned speech in which he warned that burnout affects ‘every GP’ in the UK.

He said: ‘The Government’s response to burnout is to give us more work, to make us run around the hamster wheel faster.’

Dr Vautrey said ministers’ decision to impose changes to the GP contract and reject the DDRB’s recommendation for a 2.29% funding uplift showed that they believe GPs are ‘bluffing’ about burnout, and he urged Pulse Live delegates to send a clear message to Whitehall.

‘Just think - what would the Government do if you voted against this motion?’ he asked. ‘They’d give us even more work. If you have any political nous I urge you to vote in favour of this motion.’

Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP in southeast London and co-chair of online medical community The Network, spoke against the motion, arguing that GPs still enjoy a well-paid and secure job which allows them to do enjoyable things at weekends.

GPs need to change their perception of their work and look for different models of funding, she said: ‘Newer GPs are coming in and talking about burnout more regularly. But is this a true reflection of how they’re feeling or something that’s been passed down from us?’

GPs could think about different models of working, such as going part-time, or working in commissioning, she said, adding that being able to say no to taking on extra roles was also important.

Dr Donal Hynes, a GP in Somerset and co-vice-chair of the NHS Alliance, also argued against the motion, and said that the changes brought about by commissioning could herald exciting new opportunities for GPs.

But a display of voting cards at the beginning and end of the debate showed that a clear and increased majority of GPs supported the motion’s warning about burnout.

Readers' comments (11)


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  • But of course, as ever teh Government know best. Some of us are lucky and can retire but I pity the rest of you

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  • Is pleading to a bully to be nicer to you likely to work?

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  • As a patient, have already experienced this 'burn-out'. I was told I needed a referral letter to continue seeing Physio whom I have been going to for years. Had an appointment with GP to ask for this, and as soon as I mentioned what local hospital wanted, I was subjected to tirade about how fed up he was with being "just a Secretary writing letters".

    Couldn't even stem the flow to say I totally agreed with him.

    But why can't GPs AND Patients make a combined attack on Minister and make him see sense?

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  • Never forget, you have a choice.
    As a group, most doctors are ultra diligent, obsessive compulsive (it's a requirement for getting into medical school after all), which is why we put up with 12 hours days, without so much as a lunch break. No sane person would do this.
    It doesn't make sense to be a GP principal anymore. If you can afford to, retire.
    If not, sell your time by the hour - it's worth a lot. Shame the government don't realise how much they stand to lose by their cavalier mistreatment of GPs - they will miss us when we're gone; but more importantly, so will the patients.

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  • Our hours and workloads are actually a left over from the so called ' halcyon days'. I remember those long hours and being at work for 2 and 3 weeks continuously. Nobody sane would do this We need health and safety for doctors. That is urgent and will prevent burnout.

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  • There is a very good reason why GP's are exempted from european working time directive. I would draw colleagues attention to an excellent letter to a national newspaper from Dr Peter Holden, assuming they have the decency to publish it.
    As I know Peter reads Pulse he may even see fit to pass it on in the forums.
    I am sad to hear the solution to my woes is to develop a portfolio career away from core GP clinical , drop a full time commitment and OOH work .
    Is "Family Practice" dead in the UK?

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  • This all happened in 2002 and questions were asked in parliament. Hence the so say "Disastrous Contract". Does the D.O.H. have a short memory ?

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  • Dr kanani seemed to say we are not all heading for burnout because we are going to go part time and have portfolio careers.

    So we are not all heading for burnout because we are going to protect ourselves from traditional general practice. This begs the question of why and how it has become so bad that we can no longer sustain a full working week.

    Perhaps the role of a GP needs to be shared between more of us, i.e. reduce the list size, so that we can preserve what is unique and valuable about British General Practice, namely continuity of care.

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  • Every conscientous GP whom really cares about their patients and work extremely hard on chronic diseases management, taking more of the workload from secondary care, at the same time of providing urgent medical care, and trying to keep up to pace with the rapid health reforms, could be at risk of going to burn out. I agree GP's these days should only work part time, as we need the non clinic days to catch up with all the other practice work, and to prevent getting into state of exhaustion, which can affect personal health and patient care.

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