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Stress still blights GPs' home lives

When Pulse asked GPs in 2000 what impact their work was likely to have on their health over the following five years, the answer was largely detrimental.

Seven years on, not much has changed.

Then, as now, nearly half of those surveyed said they believed their work was likely to damage their health.

Just 32 per cent now predict their health will be unaffected.

Work-related stress is already having a major impact on GPs' home lives, according to this year's results.

More than half said they 'frequently' or 'occasionally' had trouble sleeping, while 48 per cent said that work-related stress affected their relationships at home.

Dr Mary Hawking, a GP from Dunstable in Bedfordshire, said the sheer volume of work faced by GPs took a heavy toll. 'It just piles up,' she said.

'Meetings have increased enormously. There are meetings that take between two to three hours and some take the whole day.'

Stress also seems to be having a long-term impact on GPs' emotional wellbeing.

Almost one quarter of survey respondents said that they had often felt 'down' over the past month.

And 17 per cent said they had often been concerned by having little interest or pleasure in doing things.

Seventeen per cent of male GPs and 23 per cent of female GPs described themselves as having a problem with depression.

Dr Philip Ambler, a GP in Wantage, Oxfordshire, said it was unsurprising that stress spilled over into GPs' home lives. 'I think there are more physical tasks to be done in the day.

'I'm working 12-hour days that are absolutely gruelling,' he said.

Asked what they would do if work was to affect their health, one in five GPs said they would either leave general practice for another career or take early retirement.

The proportion of GPs who would consider early retirement increased to 38 per cent

in respondents aged 55 to 64 years.

However, as in 2000, a strong majority of GPs said they would seek help but 'soldier on regardless' if work began to affect their health.

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