Exclusive: LMCs swamped by GPs suffering depression

LMC leaders have warned that increasing pressure to cut costs and referrals has triggered a sharp rise in GPs seeking help for stress and depression, GP can reveal.

Dr Brian Balmer: 'People are resigning and leaving general practice. They are finding the job increasingly difficult to do' (Photograph: JH Lancy)
Dr Brian Balmer: 'People are resigning and leaving general practice. They are finding the job increasingly difficult to do' (Photograph: JH Lancy)

Senior GPs said pressure on the profession was rising bec­ause of a combination of NHS reforms, the pay freeze on general practice and steadily rising workload.

They warned of a rise in clinicians quitting the profession altogether.

Chief executive of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC Dr Peter Graves said he had seen a ‘significant number’ of GPs coming forward with stress, depression and addiction problems, some of whom required psychiatric referrals or time off work.

‘We used to see two or three people a year, but now it has risen to the teens,’ he said.

He said NHS cuts were ‘beg­inning to bite’. ‘They revolve around getting work out of hospitals and all this extra work falls on GPs,’ he said.

Cambridgeshire LMC chief executive Dr Guy Watkins said his LMC had seen an increasing call for pastoral care.

In the past year the LMC assisted 41 individual GPs (more than 5% of the LMC area) and 11 partnerships (10% of the LMC area).

Dr Watkins blamed rising stress on two factors. ‘One is that commissioning pressures are increasing tension between partners because they have different priorities. The other is the workload – GPs are working to capacity.’

Essex LMC chairman Dr Brian Balmer said: ‘I have heard reports of people who are res­igning and leaving general practice. There are people who are finding the job increasingly hard to do.’

RCGP chairwoman and med­ical director of the practitioner health programme Dr Clare Gerada said it was important not to attribute stress and dep­ression simply to increased workload or NHS reform.

But she said that rising workload, caused in part by the expansion of GP hours and more consultations, was having an effect.

‘My sense is that GPs are hea­ving under the pressure of work,’ Dr Gerada said.

The comments from LMCs came after BMJ Open research based on interviews with 500 GPs in Essex found 46% were ‘emotionally exhausted’.

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