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GPs ‘should look out for’ signs of mental illness in colleagues

GPs should be on the lookout for signs of mental illness in their colleagues amid a rise in ‘stressful’ negligence claims, a defence organisation has warned.

The Medical Protection Society (MPS) said GPs needed more support than is currently on offer, including from colleagues and employers, as they are often reluctant to seek help themselves.

MPS said that working in an increasingly litigious environment, with GPs experiencing a record number of negligence claims, was taking a toll, with a recent survey of 600 GPs revealing that nine in 10 who were subject to a clinical negligence claim said it had had a negative impact on stress and anxiety levels.

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MPS medico-legal adviser Dr Pallavi Bradshaw said that in the organisation’s experience GPs ‘may also be reluctant to seek help from a fellow practitioner for fear of being perceived as unable to cope’ and that it can be difficult for GPs ‘to take on the patient role’.

But she added: ‘Doctors have a professional obligation to consider the impact that their or a colleague’s health could have on the care they provide to patients.’

A BMA survey of over 15,000 GPs recently showed that close to one in five GPs experienced significant and unmanagable work-related stress and Pulse reported in December that four in 10 GPs had either taken time off or were expecting to take time off for burnout.

It comes as Pulse has also warned of NHS England defunding local occupational health support services for GPs around the country while existing support services say they are ‘overwhelmed’ by demand.