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GPs go forth

Four in 10 GPs taking time off for burnout

Exclusive Four in 10 GPs have taken or expect to take time off because of burnout as a result of increasing workloads and intense scrutiny, a Pulse survey has revealed.

The Pulse survey of 602 GPs found that 12% had taken time off in the past 12 months, while 29% thought they would probably need to in the next 12 months.

It is also revealed that 45% said that staff members in their practice had taken time off in the past 12 months.

Respondents said that heavy workloads and intense scrutiny from regulators and the media were to blame for the onset of burnout.  

Commenting on the results, the GPC said workload was leading to a self-perpetuating cycle, in which GPs suffering from burnout are forced to take time off, passing the burden on to other GPs.

Following a Pulse campaign, NHS England agreed in May to fund ‘high quality’ occupational services for all GPs in England, having initially only agreed to fund services for GPs ‘where there are concerns about performance’.

However, it has not released details about the scheme, which are expected shortly.

A similar survey last year revealed that 9% of GPs had taken time off as a result of stress.

These figures mirror recent findings from the BMA tracker survey, which shows that GP morale is declining even further than last year, with three-quarters of GPs reporting unmanageable or unsustainable workloads.

Dr Raj Thakkar, a GP and clinical commissioning director at NHS Chiltern CCG, said practice colleagues had to take time off because of stress.

He said: ‘Medicine is highly oppressive, with CQC, scrutiny in the newspapers, unrealistic expectations and other agencies putting hard-working doctors under the microscope. All this is on top of working a lot more for a lot less. Is there any wonder there is a recruitment crisis?’

Dr Zishan Syed, a locum GP, said: ‘GPs are subject to terrible pressure and expectations on a workforce that is frankly exhausted.

‘A huge source of stress for doctors is fear of litigation and investigations from their local authorities or other regulatory authorities such as the GMC, sometimes simultaneously.

‘It seems sometimes that such investigations have already established a verdict of the doctor being guilty before hearing his/her perspective. Indemnity organisations continue to ask for huge sums of money, but some doctors have been dropped at the most critical points of their cases by their indemnity organisations, to whom they have been faithfully paying indemnity fees.’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘These are extremely worrying figures that mirror the base reality of GPs up and down the UK. Even more concerning is the ripple effect of those doctors who take time off due to sickness on an already overstretched GP workforce, resulting in greater stress on those GPs remaining. We need to ensure that we take measures right from government through to local commissioning policies that manage the pressures on GP workload.’

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Readers' comments (43)

  • I am 56, I am struggling to work at this pace. I have recently reduced my hours in an attempt to survive until retirement but am still feeling overwhelmed. I constantly worry that I may not be providing an acceptable level of care due to the pressures placed upon us.

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  • Guess what...the guys in power don't give a s**t

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  • Re anonymous at 9.35pm. Seek some help. Contact your LMC. It's not your fault.

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  • I still care massively about my clinical work and my patients. But as far as all the other BS like appraisal, CQC, inspections etc is concerned I do not give a s...anymore. If anyone can get a better service than with my practice then good on them, go somewhere else. However, don't expect me to feel
    Responsible for the cuts - sorry, efficiency savings- our rulers have imposed.
    Deeply reject us as part ofCCGs taking responsibility for the crap others dished out for our patients. That's the first role we should all reject. Let's make it clear for anyone whose side we're on- our patients. Getting rid of this Jekyll and Hyde existence will enhance our job satisfaction.

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  • I'm a junior doctor wondering wether to do GP or not and this scares me to a certain extent!! But what I don't get, and maybe GPs could answer, is if there is a shortage and recruitment is low why there isn't any fundamental changes. Should I bite the bullet and try to enter hospital medicine.

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  • Dear Ghanshyam,

    You are witnessing the end of a cycle. The current 'Independent Contractor' model of general practice is dying. But general practice is still a fantastic profession and there will be a range of salaried opportunities on offer in years to come. Remuneration will improve - due to local and international competition for your skills. This will prove a lot more expensive for the Government, but that is not your problem.

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  • @11.02:
    As a partner and trainer I can honestly answer that at this point in time I Would not enter GP unless you are seriously planning to emigrate after your VTS.
    Training in the UK is excellent. The 40 years after will be TOUGH!!!!!
    There is no silver lining on the horizon. All parties are hellbound to balance the budget which all experts agree can only be done by restricting public sector pay, mainly of the ones 'with the highest incomes' - you'll be one of those in their eyes, regardless that you'll pay 30% pension contributions as a partner.
    Don't do it. Choose a specialty which gives you the option of a good private practice income.

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  • Disagree with 11.13. This is not a normal market where a lack of skills should cause a rise in value for these skills. There is almost a monopoly supplier of funding, the Government. A capping of funding will mean incomes cannot rise as they will not

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  • Sorry , doing this on the phone.
    Public services will not pay more for GPs and Partnerships will rather cut services and posts than pay salaried GPs more than they earn themselves.
    Being a Consultant means you can boost your income, by non NHS work which is where the real
    Money will come from in the future. The big plan of politicians is to shrink the NHS, but GPs are solely reliant on their NHS income - unlike consultants.
    Don't get me wrong, you'll have to be a much better doctor to be a GP these days than a consultant who's possibly only specialising on pushing a camera or two up
    Someone's orifices, but don't expect to be rewarded for it.

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    Don't enter GP land. The future is 'enslaved' salaried GPs.. 'There is sometimes too much emphasis on the bottom line by employers and insurance companies. And also at times too many oppressive rules in clinics, hospitals, state regulations, etc.'

    If you must remain a GP in the UK, try the independent practice model set up by family physician Dr Pamela Wible which has spread across America in which she charges patients directly at affordable rates.

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