Surging workloads, a feeling of isolation and managing increasing numbers of patients with mental health problems are all contributing to a stress epidemic among GPs, RCGP Scotland has warned.
More than half of GPs responding to a recent RCGP Scotland survey say working in general practice during the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.
Dr Amy Knighton, chair of RCGP’s East Scotland Faculty and member of the Scottish Government’s National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group saida lot of pandemic mental health problems present in general practice and for GPs spending a lot of time absorbing everybody else’s difficulties, it can be relentless.
‘It’s tiring and it takes a lot out of you. I try to give each patient the time that they need because I think that’s right, but at the back of your mind you’re always thinking there’s another 100 calls to go.’
RCGP Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to safeguard funding for the Workforce Specialist Service – a dedicated mental health service for healthcare professionals – beyond the pandemic.
‘Unfortunately there is evidence that GPs, doctors and healthcare professionals are not seeking help – before the pandemic there was already a clear need for dedicated support such as will be provided by the Workforce Specialist Service,’ she said.
RCGP Scotland’s joint chair Dr Chris Williams said GPs were under immense pressure, working longer hours than ever before and leading teams going above and beyond but the current situation was not sustainable.
‘We remain resolute in our long-standing call for a national conversation about what the NHS can reasonably deliver during these highly-pressured times.
‘In order to safeguard the wellbeing of our GP members, who are working tirelessly to serve their patients in Scotland, we must find a longer-term solution.’
Earlier this week, a UK survey carried out by the BMA revealed that well over a third of GPs (36%) are considering early retirement within the next 12 months, as doctors are overwhelmed by an ‘avalanche’ of workload hitting practices.
The news comes as Pulse has revealed that GPs are facing the worst burnout crisis for over a decade, including pandemic mental health problems and mounting workloads leaving GPs working 11-hour days.
NHS England’s primary care director Dr Nikki Kanani acknowledged in a recent webinar that it is feeling ‘really difficult’ for GPs at the moment as demand on services continues.