Professor Malcolm Grant
Chair, NHS England
Dear Professor Grant,
I am writing to you again regarding the issue of the support provided for struggling GPs.
You said to me last year in a response to a letter from Pulse that you took seriously our call for more consistent and reliable occupational health support for GPs.
It is vital that urgent action is taken on this issue. Research Pulse has published recently from 2,230 GPs has shown rising numbers are so stressed during their working day that they are at a high risk of burning out completely.
The survey was the largest ever survey of burnout among UK GPs and it shows 50% are at high risk of burnout. Three-quarters of GPs feel emotionally exhausted while 25% report a low sense of personal accomplishment at work.
Some 80% of GPs said they feel ’used up’ at the end of the working day and 82% say they feel they are working too hard. This is a major issue for the health service as exhausted, stressed doctors are unable to provide the sophisticated, personalised care that is so essential in general practice.
Under NHS England’s plans for the NHS, GPs will be expected to extend access and take on much more care outside hospitals. But a recent report from the Nuffield Trust said that staff burnout is becoming a ‘significant risk’ to reform of the NHS and that the ‘looming workforce crunch’ in general practice is putting enormous pressure on the service.
NHS England promised that it would commission a ‘high quality’ occupational health service for GPs last year, but this has yet to materialise. Instead, funding for the few high-quality occupational health services available to GPs has been cut, or is under threat.
GPs are trying to do their best for patients, but this survey shows it is having a drastic effect on their mental and physical health and causing some to leave the profession altogether. This is incredibly short-sighted, particularly when we need thousands more new GPs.
If NHS England wants GPs to do more, then a radical rethink of the pressures on the service and the support offered to struggling GPs is urgently needed. I urge you again to ensure that a comprehensive support service is introduced (and reinstated in some areas), so that GPs can receive confidential counselling if they are struggling.
We ask that your ‘new deal’ tackles some of the root causes of this issue – the oppressive micro-management, pointless regulation and falling funding that piles pressure on GPs.
GPs cannot be the fall back for every ill of society and it is vital that they are allowed to do what they are trained for – to treat patients. Good use of these skills is vital if the health service is to be sustainable over the next five years.
We look forward to your reply.
Editor of Pulse
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