The effect of NHS wait times on patients’ prognosis is impacting the mental health of GPs, a medical defence organisation has warned.
More than half (52%) of GPs in the UK say their mental health is worse now than it was during the pandemic, according to the Medical Protection Society (MPS).
The medical indemnity provider surveyed nearly 900 doctors, of which 271 are GPs. Of these, 48% said referral waiting list times – and related concern for patients – is impacting on their mental health.
Others pointed to the impact of exhaustion (55%) and the inability to take breaks to eat and drink (50%).
Over three quarters (82%) said staff shortages make it difficult for them to take time off to deal with mental health issues, and 55% are considering their future in healthcare due to mental health concerns.
A GPs who participated in the survey said: ‘I now suffer with depression. I feel that I have a permanent disability caused by my job.’
Another GP said: ‘Pressures across NHS secondary, primary and social care, and the haemorrhaging of experienced staff at every level make the job increasingly impossible and fear of serious incidents, things going wrong, a sense of lurching from crisis to crisis with little or no respite, is taking its toll.
‘I am considering early retirement – far earlier than planned. I do think this will be a sad loss both for myself and the NHS services as I have considerable experience and expertise. But I have my health, wellbeing and family to consider also.’
Another comment from a GP taking part in the survey said: ‘I feel absolutely powerless to change anything other than to leave medicine. Patients demanding and abusive, waiting lists in the years, totally out of my control.’
And 80% also said they feel the Government is not doing enough to help healthcare professionals with mental health issues.
In 2021, NHS England announced it was setting up mental health hubs to help staff who have ‘pushed their last minds and body to the limit’ during the pandemic.
Now MPS fears the limited funding allocation could threaten the sustainability of these 40 hubs at a time when they may be needed most.
MPS president Professor Dame Jane Dacre said: ‘Half of our members tell us their mental health is worse now than it was during the pandemic, and a similar amount are considering their future in healthcare due to mental health concerns.
‘We are also seeing more staff absent from work due to mental ill health than ever before.
‘It therefore seems absolutely the wrong time to scale back mental health provision for healthcare staff and risk the sustainability of an established network of hubs that are crucial in supporting mental wellbeing and retention.
‘We urge the Government to consider providing sustainable funding to strengthen the hubs. While retention is complex and multi-faceted, investment in mental health support for staff is a fundamental pillar.’
Around one in 20 GPs in England are currently accessing mental health services via NHS Practitioner Health, a service which provides treatment to healthcare professionals who are mentally unwell.
CEO Lucy Warner said roughly 2,400 GPs are on their caseload, which is 5.3% of the total 45,637 GPs across the country, with older GPs and partners now more heavily represented than previously.
The survey’s key findings
- 52% said their mental wellbeing is worse now than it was during the pandemic
- 80% of doctors believe the Government is not doing enough to help healthcare workers with mental wellbeing issues
- 55% said they are considering their future in healthcare due to mental wellbeing concerns
- 48% said not being able to do the right thing for patients is impacting their current mental wellbeing
- 55% said the impact of exhaustion or burnout on patient safety is impacting their current mental wellbeing
- 55% said working increasingly long hours is impacting their current mental wellbeing
- 50% said the inability to take breaks during the day to eat and drink is impacting their current mental wellbeing
- 82% said staff shortages make it difficult to take time off to deal with mental wellbeing issues.
- 48% said the effect of referral waiting list times on patients’ prognosis was impacting on their current mental wellbeing
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