GPs 'top of the list' as pandemic triggers 46% surge in doctors seeking mental health support

The NHS service supporting doctors and dentists facing burnout, stress, addiction and other mental health problems saw a 46% rise in cases in the first 12 months of the pandemic - with GPs significantly overrepresented.

(Photo: d3sign/Getty Images)

In the 12 months from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, NHS Practitioner Health saw 46% more doctors and dentists seeking help on average per month compared to pre-pandemic levels.

In March this year, one year on from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, cases were more than double the same month in 2020 - up 105%, according to a report from the confidential support service.

Figures released by NHS Practitioner Health show that GPs made up almost half of new patients accessing the service over the past year - showing that the profession is significantly overrepresented among doctors facing mental distress compared with the proportion of the overall medical register it makes up.

GP burnout

In total, over the year from April 2020 to March 2021 4,355 new cases were registered with the service. This is 363 per month on average, a 46% rise compared with the 249 per month over the previous six months, NHS Practitioner Health reported.

The findings come just a day after a report from MPs warned that NHS workforce plans need a total overhaul to tackle soaring levels of burnout in the health service linked to 'chronic excessive workload'.

Women make up four in five of all new presentations, compared with 67% before the pandemic - while the average age of doctors seeking support has dropped to 38.

The NHS Practitioner Health report warns that the rise in women and younger doctors seeking help reflects the 'disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women from all walks of life, with their additional pressures of working harder than ever whilst juggling their caring responsibilities'.

Workload crisis

On the sharp rise in GPs seeking support, the service warned: 'GPs are bearing a disproportionate burden of the workload against diminishing resources and it perhaps no surprise that they are often top of the list for mental distress and burnout in the medical profession.'

NHS Practitioner Health chief executive Lucy Warner said: 'The last fifteen months have challenged NHS staff like never before and the resilience and strength of the workforce has been remarkable.

'However, what has been achieved has brought challenges and pressures that continue to impact on the mental health of us all. I am so pleased that Practitioner Health is able to be there for any member of staff who needs us, whether it is anxiety or addiction, they are not alone and we are here to help.'

NHS Practitioner Health medical director Dame Clare Gerada said: 'I am pleased that doctors have found their way to us, and that now all healthcare staff can access our service. What is needed going forward is a period of recuperation and reflection such that the hard working NHS can draw breath and recover from the experiences they have all been through on our behalf.'

NHS Practitioner Health service is now available to all 1.6m NHS staff across England and Scotland after an expansion of its offering from the start of this year in response to the rise in staff seeking help during the pandemic.

Click here to contact NHS Practitioner Health

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

GP appointment

General practice delivered 342m appointments in 2022 - and lost nearly 500 GPs

General practice in England delivered around 342m appointments in total in 2022 with...

NHS sign

Local GPs unite to take over two practices run by hospital trust

GPs in Swindon have come together to take over two practices that had spent more...

Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: Why are junior doctors preparing to strike?

Talking General Practice speaks to BMA GP trainee committee chair Dr David Smith...


Practices face losing out on QOF income amid soaring demand

GP practices risk losing out on QOF income this year because sky-high demand for...

Nurse giving older man a COVID-19 vaccine

JCVI recommends targeted COVID-19 vaccination programme in 2023

People at higher risk of severe COVID-19 should be offered a booster vaccination...

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay leaving number 10 Downing Street

Government sets out plans for 'major conditions' health strategy

The government is to set out a strategy to tackle six 'major' health conditions in...