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GP mental health badly affected by staff shortages, finds survey

GP mental health badly affected by staff shortages, finds survey

Almost half of GPs said that the fear of being sued or investigated due to incidents arising from staff shortages is affecting their mental health, a new survey has found.

The survey carried out by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) also found that 55% of GPs believe that working increasingly long hours due to staff shortages is impacting their mental health, and 93% say they cannot see staffing levels improving in the foreseeable future.

The MPS surveyed 861 doctors, of which 271 are GPs, and nearly half (48%) said the fear of being sued or investigated is also having a detrimental impact on their mental health, and over half (55%) are considering their career in medicine due to staff shortages.

Last month, the indemnity provider found that just over 40% of GPs being investigated by the GMC reported suicidal thoughts, and nearly half considered quitting medicine as a result of the process.

MPS president Professor Dame Jane Dacre said: ‘The fact that nearly all GPs cannot see staffing levels improving in the foreseeable future is a sad reflection of the times and is worrying for patients and doctors alike.

‘Many GPs are also worried about becoming embroiled in medicolegal disputes following adverse incidents arising due to staff shortages.

‘GPs and practice staff are exhausted, fearful and many need support with mental wellbeing issues. When mental wellbeing is poor it is not only damaging for the individual but also jeopardises patient care.’

A GP writing anonymously in the MPS survey said: ‘There are just simply not enough GPs to manage the workload of an aging, complex population. I am exhausted every day and struggle to relax. It is affecting time at home with my family, and I cannot see a way to sustain it.’

Another GP said: ‘I love being a doctor. I love being a GP. But we are desperately trying to stay on this sinking ship and I feel like I may have to jump off soon.’

The MPS is also calling on the GMC to reassure doctors that severe resource constraints will be considered if they are referred to the regulator following an adverse incident.

Professor Dacre added: ‘We would also welcome more reassurance from the GMC to reduce the fear, and the resulting impact on mental health, many doctors feel about being referred to the regulator due to staffing issues out of their control.

‘During the pandemic the GMC issued a statement to acknowledge the challenges doctors were facing and offer reassurance that the extreme context would be considered.

‘They took the same step again last winter. We feel the current staffing crisis warrants similar reassurance.’

The MPS, which has 300,000 healthcare professional members, also said the full NHS Workforce Plan, which is expected to be released imminently, must provide all healthcare professionals with ‘a light at the end of the tunnel’.

Professor Dacre said: ‘The plan must include comprehensive mental health support if we are to retain the many passionate, committed GPs who are demoralised and considering leaving medicine.

‘One of the many problems with staff shortages is the knock-on effect on the exhaustion and mental health of remaining staff. If we don’t tackle this, they will leave, and this will negate any planned injection of new doctors.’

Earlier this year, researchers found that the pressures of the pandemic led to signs of psychological stress and burnout among GPs.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Jamal Hussain 17 May, 2023 10:13 am

If your mental health is being adversely affected by being a GP then stop and make a change.
Retire early, locum, emigrate or change jobs. If you’re already a locum pick another option.
These four are your best choices. Sucking it up and waiting for things to get really bad for you is a terrible choice because by that time your judgement may be impaired.
Waiting for the powers that be to step in and make positive changes because they can’t possibly let things get worse is a terrible choice as well. Possibility versus probability. It’s possible that will happen but highly unlikely given their past performance being a good indicator of future performance.
We all get a bit sad at times. GPs are generally a successful bunch and that also includes successful suicide attempts. We have to look out for each other and ourselves. Mental health support has its place but does nothing to deal with the underlying triggers. Make the change early. Your life is in your hands.

Turn out The Lights 17 May, 2023 11:13 am


Iain Chalmers 17 May, 2023 11:18 am

Best thing I ever did was go early.

Even family & friends noted changes in me when did last 2 years salaried rather than partner.

Feel sorry for those not in my fortunate position though.

John Graham Munro 17 May, 2023 2:02 pm

Either do what you can and go home to your loving family, or get admitted to the local Gerada psychiatric unit for ”distressed doctors”——–whilst you still have your sanity.

Sam Tapsell 17 May, 2023 3:16 pm

Agree, a danger related to the hard work it took to get here. Humans (as well as rats and mice) will want to plough on…

The sunk cost fallacy is the improper mindset a company or individual may have when working through a decision. This fallacy is based on the premise that committing to the current plan is justified because resources have already been committed

Truth Finder 18 May, 2023 10:25 am

Doctors are badly treated with less rights than any citizen.
If a soldier saved only some people in a multi-level terrorist attack, will be deemed a hero.
Doctor Bawa Garba covering a few floors with staff shortages and system failure plus someone put the wrong DNACPR and only one patient died but she saved countless others, she is whipped and demonised as gross negligence manslaughter.
Not to mention the multiple jeopardies GMC, CQC, NHSE, ICB, Trust, police etc. How many times can you punish a person for a wronged “crime”. It is pure injustice.