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GP ‘resilience’ coaches to persuade burnt out colleagues to stay on

Exclusive NHS England is planning to train 160 GPs to coach colleagues in resilience to cope with stress and burnout and managing workload.

The courses being run by Health Education England (HEE) and the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management (FMLM) will teach GPs to train colleagues to improve work/life balance, recognise signs of stress and burnout, better manage conflicts and find solutions to problems.

NHS England would not reveal the size of the funding for the programme, which it said is commercially sensitive, but said it forms part of the £10m, 10-point plan to improve GP recruitment and retention.

FMLM, an organisation set up jointly by the medical royal colleges in 2011 to ’improve medical leadership’, said the coaching was aimed at GPs thinking of returning to or leaving practice, by helping them to:

  • Improve work/life balance and feel more in control at work;
  • Increase ability to identify solutions to work related issues;
  • Build greater confidence in managing conflict and having difficult conversations in the workplace;
  • Build greater self-awareness of the symptoms of stress and burnout.

The invitation from FMLM says: ‘FMLM has been funded by NHS England to offer up to four free coaching sessions to GPs in England who are either thinking of giving up practice or have recently returned to general practice after a break.

‘Our expert coaches are experienced in coaching doctors and understand the issues GPs currently face. They are available to support GPs who feel they have reached  a crossroads – or the end of the road – in general practice.’

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘As part of our commitment to help GPs, NHS England has commissioned a number of coaching programmes offering GPs the chance to train as coaches and support one another in managing stress and workload. Evidence shows this approach is an effective way of helping GPs remain in practice.

‘So far we have commissioned 160 places on coaching courses which will enable GPs to train as coaches and offer coaching support to colleagues across the system. FMLM is one of the organisations delivering the coaching training programme with the others being delivered by Health Education England.’

Family Doctor Assciation chair Dr Peter Swinyard said the FDA had floated this idea to NHS England a few months ago to retain older GPs to ’do a job which was not coping with the persisting stress of front-line practice but retaining their wisdom and channelling it to help struggling GPs and practices. So [we are] very positive about it and hope that is does not get mired in a sea of bureaucracy.’

Although the deadline for applying to the next course expires this week, NHS England said this was only for the April cohort and any GP wanting information on the continuing scheme can contact the NHS Leadership Academy via

The GMC last year proposed to introduce ‘emotional resilience’ into medical training, following comments from its chair Professor Terence Stephenson that doctors should have emotional resilience similar to soldiers in Afghanistan.  

Battling burnout 

The 10-point plan to improve GP recruitment and retention, announced last January, included plans for ’reviewing how to incentivise experienced GPs to remain in practice’. 

The plans also include a new national occupational health support service, which NHS England has said will be rolled out regionally from April to help GPs with burnout and stress.

Pulse’s Battling Burnout campaign has demanded that NHS England provides comprehensive support to GPs struggling with stress and burnout since conducting the largest-ever survey of GP burnout in the UK in 2013, showing almost half of GPs (46%) were at risk.

The most recent Pulse Battling Burnout survey, carried out last year, showed that the number of GPs at high risk of burnout had reached 50%.