More than 500 GPs across Essex were assessed for burnout by measuring their levels of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation - expressed as negativity and cynicism, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.
Almost half of the respondents (46%) fitted the criteria for emotional exhaustion; while more than four out of 10 (42%) were depersonalised. One in three (34%) felt they were not achieving a great deal.
The report by Dr Peter Orton, of private medical clinic Aviation Medica, said the figures imply that a significant group of doctors are ‘in trouble’.
‘Burnout must... always be considered as a health and safety issue and from the patients’ perspective. Feeling callous towards patients may be associated with reduced care and compassion provided by depersonalised doctors,’ the report said.
According to the findings, GPs who work in group practices reported significantly higher burnout scores than those working in singlehanded practices.
The report's authors described the results as ‘disappointing’ as group practices were expected to provide more support to GPs.
‘The finding could be the result of group practice creating extra demands on practitioners, while raising the possibility of interpersonal tensions and conflicts. Regardless of cause, these findings are worrying as group practices are increasing in number and in size,’ the report said.
The results also found that male doctors were significantly more likely to be depersonalised than women doctors.
The report said: ‘The relative resistance of female doctors to burnout is important. It may occur because women GPs tend to consult more slowly and more often work part time.’