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Number of GPs suffering burnout has increased five-fold since 2000, LMCs warn

LMC leaders have revealed figures showing the full extent of GPs’ burnout today, as it emerged that five times as many GPs are using local occupational health services than in 2000.

Delegates at the LMC conference unanimously condemned NHS England’s decision to remove funding for local occupational health services for GPs and instructed the GPC to seek the reinstitution of funding.

Pulse has begun a campaign around GPs’ burnout and the LMCs conference has shown the depth of feeling, with GPs calling the decision to withdraw funding ‘callous and heartless’.

The motion, proposed by Cornwall LMC’s Dr Francesco Scaglioni, addressed the rising number of GPs suffering work-related illnesses. He told delegates that one in 17 GPs presented to local occupational health services in Cornwall in 2012, a five-fold increase on the one in 83 using them in 2000.

A third of GPs presenting were ‘frankly suicidal’, Dr Scaglioni said, and the age of GPs presenting at services was falling, with more registrars than ever seeking help in Cornwall.

One in five of the GPs attending occupation health services elected to retire, he added.

While some PCTs had previously funded occupation health and support services, NHS England said that the local area teams were under no obligation to continue the funding.

Dr Scaglioni condemned the move to remove funding for the services: ‘If they don’t [access support services] the condition worsens, patients suffer, the GMC gets involved. Or a colleague becomes lost not just to the practice, but to their family. And at what cost? £2k- £3k per case, then self funding for a year at £50 a week.

‘Last month we received a letter from LAT saying funding is withdrawn, with no provision for the users of that service. This is callous, dangerous and heartless piece of activity. Funding for occupational health services MUST be provided by the LAT for the good of our patients and the good of ourselves.’

GPC professional fees and regulation subcommittee chair Dr John Canning echoed the concern. He said: ‘I am certain there will be doctors, having CBT or counselling which keeps them in work. Things that keep them working. Suddenly they’re told “sorry- you’re halfway through- you’re off”. Can you believe it? Can you really believe it?’

NHS England said that the local area teams were still reviewing the contracts: ‘We are pulling together the current situation in each area team in the knowledge that funding for occupational health services has been treated in a variety of ways by PCTs through the transition. We are still reviewing the services which have been on offer.’