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Revealed: The rising tide of GP burnout as NHS cuts support

Exclusive Rising numbers of GPs are so stressed during their working day that they are at a high risk of burning out completely, reveals the largest ever survey conducted in the profession.

The Pulse survey of 2,230 UK GPs shows 50% are at high risk of burnout, up four percentage points from the same survey two years ago.

GP leaders say the health service has become an ‘industrial hazard’ and that burnout is forcing more GPs to leave the profession.

But the few occupational health schemes providing support to struggling GPs in England have had their funding cut and in Scotland NHS managers are looking at charging for their services.

The Pulse survey shows that three-quarters of GPs feel emotionally exhausted while 25% report a low sense of personal accomplishment.

Dr Daniel Mounce, a former GP in Bradford, left the profession ‘after falling apart mid-consultation’.

He said: ‘For me, leaving general practice has been like leaving an abusive relationship. The shaming and invective, the fear, the unreasonable demands were about driving down self-esteem. I can’t quite believe I ever thought I could stick it for another 30 years.’

Doncaster GP Dr Shahzad Arif, who was recently slapped with a breach notice by NHS managers after burnout forced him take sick leave, told Pulse he was ‘frustrated’ at the total absence of support.

He said: ‘I think it was perhaps something waiting to happen; there was a slight trigger that day because the practice had been unusually busy and I decided I need a break, I couldn’t go on.’

June 2015 issue cover story - GP burnout infographic 460x368

In response to the first burnout survey, Pulse launched its Battling Burnout campaign that last year won a pledge to fund occupational health support for all GPs in England.

But NHS England has yet to release the long-overdue service specifications, and in the meantime has slashed funding for previously excellent mental health support services in Devon, leaving GPs to resort to self-funding.

In Lancashire and Cumbria, LMC chief executive Peter Higgins said that NHS England scrapped the previously ‘very good’ services in 2013, and it has so far refused bids from the LMC to have mental health service put in place.

In Kent, LMC medical secretary Dr John Allingham said: ‘We are hanging on by the skin of our teeth. We have occupational health funding for next year, but nothing guaranteed going forwards.’

It is the same case in Lothian, where GPC executive member Dr Dean Marshall tells Pulse there was a counselling service and occupational health ‘but now they’re talking about charging GPs for it’.

Former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada, medical director of a confidential mental health service for doctors in London – said: ‘The NHS at the moment is an industrial hazard, and especially for GPs. Of course we go beyond the call of duty, but to do so every single day is causing great harm to GPs.’

Professor Gerada said her service - the Practitioner Health Programme - had been forced to shut its doors for six weeks in March after a ‘massive increase’ in demand, most of it from GPs.

It comes as the Government plans to roll out seven-day working for GP practices and NHS England’s Five Year Forward view plans for GPs to take on more care outside hospitals. The health secretary promised GPs a ‘new deal’ that will be announced this month to ‘look at why GPs have so much burnout’.

Related images

  • Battling Burnout Logo

Readers' comments (102)

  • where the heck do you live Sam?......there is a waiting list a mile long to see a dentist in many areas - the consequences of this are all too easily seen.mainly amongst poorer people who cannot afford private treatment ...they are not able to get even lousy quality nhs dentistry any longer

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  • I am still amazed that no doctor of my generation has brought a case of institutionalised abuse against the various governments who have overseen the systematic destruction of good doctors .

    ps part time only 45 hours or so these days

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  • Which legal firm do we go to to sue the pants of those who abuse, torture and denigrate us to the evidenced detriment of our physical and mental health..... I'm sure their indemnity fees are all paid up.
    Class action anyone?

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  • We are an abused minority.

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  • we are majorly abused

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  • I've just lost my job as a partner. I didn't want to leave. But I am now a free agent and can do what I like. So, I don't have the shackles that those that kicked me out do, and I can go and enjoy myself.
    Ironic, isn't it, that someone who actually wants to be a partner has had it taken away, when you can't get a partner when you want one. But I was definitely suffering from burn-out, and I guess that is what they saw, and did not see that there was a GP under there who really wants to do a good job for the those out there. It is a bit of a shock coming back from sick leave (for burn-out) to be told you are out of a job.
    I don't usually post things anonymously, but this time it is necessary.
    What this means for me is that, once I have come to terms with the loss of everything I have worked for in the last 10 years, I can start looking at redefining myself, recovering from CCG and partnership work, and decide what is good for me, not for anyone else.
    Once I have stopped crying and started sleeping, I will put GP and partnership stools behind me.

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  • @Anonymous | Nurse | 04 June 2015 4:45pm

    Don't forget about all the nurse practitioners and staff nurses working in urgent care settings ...... Only paid a fraction of what the doctors are too!

    This is because you are not taking overall responsibility for the patient when something goes wrong, monitoring blood test results, doing docman, doing all the LES/ DES/optimisation schemes and all other admin work to keep the practice afloat (which pays your salary by the way).
    This is why your pay does not match that of a Dr. If you want it to please train to become a Dr. and pass the relevant assessments to do so . You are not comparing like with like

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  • Pilots and crew sue airlines over toxic cabin air
    Tuesday, June 09, 2015
    Seventeen pilots and cabin crew are taking legal action against airlines after they said they had been poisoned by contaminated cabin air.

    The 17 are preparing personal injury claims against several British airlines, and are being backed by their trade union, Unite. The union is calling for a public inquiry into the quality of cabin air, and has opened a legal unit to process claims from its members who have been exposed to a ‘fume event’, as it is called when gases from engine oil get mixed with the air that circulates in the cabin.

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  • couldnt agree more Clare Gerada (10.26am)
    I am 8 sessions a week - and unfortunately cannot reduce - as practice has difficulty recruiting. I spend equivalent of 4-5 'PA' sessions on admin work on top of these 8 clinical sessions.
    My wife works in hospital medicine - and these PA are automatically awarded and protected as part of her consultant contract.
    I do believe any 'new deal' addressing burnout - has to at least look at this area,

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  • Isn't there a Union for doctors in the UK? I hear Arthur Scargill is still available, can we shift all our BMA subscriptions to hire him? I remember back in 1999 I paid for my BMA subscription the get the mag then cancelled it the following month as there was no Union to speak of in this country. I'm sympathetic to Cuban doctors and the North Korean model where doctors do as they're told by the government, but surely Great Britain has a Union? Can someone fill me in what's gone wrong? BMA representative speak up here?

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