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Profession heading for burnout, GPs at Pulse Live warn

Practices are facing unprecedented workload pressures as a result of the imposed GP contract, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told the Pulse Live conference today, as delegates backed a motion warning that ‘GPs are all heading for burnout’.

A clear majority of around 500 GPs who packed out the conference in Birmingham voted in favour of the motion, after a passionate debate from a panel of GPs.

It comes as Pulse launched its ‘Battling Burnout’ campaign which aims to raise awareness of the pressures GPs face, and offers readers the opportunity to take a burnout assessment based on the validated Maslach Burnout Inventory tool.

The motion at the debate was proposed by Dr Hamed Khan, a board member of the south London faculty of the RCGP and a GP in Surrey, who argued that increased workload, less remuneration, an increased threat of litigation and uncertainty over health reforms were causing widespread burnout.

Dr Khan, who is also media secretary of the online GP forum Tiko’s GP Group, cited several regional examples of GPs presenting to various health and wellbeing services with stress-related issues, and said Nottinghamshire LMCs had reported that half the referrals for CBT were for GPs.

And GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey, seconding the motion, was applauded for an impassioned speech in which he warned that burnout affects ‘every GP’ in the UK.

He said: ‘The Government’s response to burnout is to give us more work, to make us run around the hamster wheel faster.’

Dr Vautrey said ministers’ decision to impose changes to the GP contract and reject the DDRB’s recommendation for a 2.29% funding uplift showed that they believe GPs are ‘bluffing’ about burnout, and he urged Pulse Live delegates to send a clear message to Whitehall.

‘Just think - what would the Government do if you voted against this motion?’ he asked. ‘They’d give us even more work. If you have any political nous I urge you to vote in favour of this motion.’

Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP in southeast London and co-chair of online medical community The Network, spoke against the motion, arguing that GPs still enjoy a well-paid and secure job which allows them to do enjoyable things at weekends.

GPs need to change their perception of their work and look for different models of funding, she said: ‘Newer GPs are coming in and talking about burnout more regularly. But is this a true reflection of how they’re feeling or something that’s been passed down from us?’

GPs could think about different models of working, such as going part-time, or working in commissioning, she said, adding that being able to say no to taking on extra roles was also important.

Dr Donal Hynes, a GP in Somerset and co-vice-chair of the NHS Alliance, also argued against the motion, and said that the changes brought about by commissioning could herald exciting new opportunities for GPs.

But a display of voting cards at the beginning and end of the debate showed that a clear and increased majority of GPs supported the motion’s warning about burnout.