One in 10 doctors referred to burnout clinic as NHS declared 'occupational health hazard'

One in 10 doctors in London have sought help from a specialist occupational mental health service due to be rolled out nationally for GPs.

Professor Clare Gerada (Photo: Alex Deverill)

Former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada, whose Hurley Group practice runs the Practitioner Health Programme, warned that soaring levels of ill health and addiction among doctors could ‘destroy the NHS’. 

There was evidence the health service was an ‘occupational health hazard’ for doctors, the London GP told a conference at the King's Fund thinktank, with poor levels of burnout, stress and trauma.

The service in London has seen around 3,000 doctors, about 10% of all London doctors. ‘Many of them with burnout, depression, anxiety, and a syndrome indistinguishable from post traumatic stress disorder, despite the fact they haven't been exposed to a trauma as we think about it’, said Dr Gerada. ‘The remaining third are doctors with addiction.’

‘People have their own vulnerabilities ... which make them vulnerable to mental ill health,’ she added. ‘But on the whole what we were hearing is that [doctors] were the canaries in the mine.

GP workload

‘The system we are currently working in - the system that is the NHS that we all love and revere is actually making us sick.’

Dr Gerada said the problems were linked to a lack of respect for doctors, and a ‘sense of a moral disconnect; that on the one hand we focus on the patient, but on the other hand as many junior doctors ... know that the bottom line, the financial needs of your institution will trump the patient needs at any time, irrespective of what people say.’

But the former RCGP chair praised health secretary Jeremy Hunt for recognising the threat. ‘I do respect Jeremy Hunt, that he is acknowledging this is a problem,’ said Dr Gerada, ‘because it is a significant and major problem.’

Last month NHS England revealed details of the world’s first free national health service for doctors with £19.5m of funding. The mental health service for GPs in England, first announced in the GP Forward View, will also be run by Dr Gerada’s Hurley Group.

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