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GP trainer health and wellbeing at risk from overwork, says GMC report

GP trainers are working harder than trainers in other medical specialties, potentially putting their health and wellbeing at risk.

The findings have been presented as part of the GMC’s annual Training environments report which for the first time includes specific data on GP trainers.

The 2018 report findings, based on a survey of 2,896 GP trainers, included:

  • Around nine out of ten GP trainers report working beyond their normal hours on at least a weekly basis;
  • Over half (57.8%) work beyond their hours on a daily basis – a ‘much higher proportion of trainers than in any other specialty’;
  • A third (33.3%) report feeling short of sleep at work on a daily or weekly basis, and two thirds (67%] often or always feel worn out at the end of the working day;
  • Over half (52%) find their work emotionally exhausting, and over one in five (23.1%) are exhausted at the thought of another day in work.

The report said: ‘Many GPs are working under pressure; over half of all GP trainers work beyond their normal working hours on a daily basis. This can impact on the delivery of GP training, as well as trainers’ health and wellbeing.’

However, despite the pressures, ‘the majority of GP trainers enjoy their role,’ according to the report, which found:

  • 95.3% of GP trainers said they enjoyed being a trainer, and four in five (84.1%) are satisfied with the opportunities training provide;
  • GP trainers feel well-supported at work, with 97% agreeing that their working environment is fully supportive.

Dr Helena McKeown, BMA GP Committee policy lead for education, training and workforce, said the data ‘should be a wakeup call to everyone else to exactly how hard our family doctors are working’.

She said: ‘Almost two-thirds of those surveyed worked beyond their normal hours every day, and worryingly one in three reported being short of sleep. No one wants to be treated by a doctor that is tired and overworked – and the potential impact on patient safety should ring alarm bells.

‘That the clear majority of GPs are – at the same time as seeing a large number of patients who are increasingly living with more complex conditions – able to still make time to train the next generation of GPs is a testament to their commitment to the profession.

‘We are in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, and this survey proves that we must improve the working lives of both the present and future GP workforce if we are to ensure the sustainability of general practice for years to come.’