One in seven GPs experience suicidal thoughts due to workload stress

As many as one in seven (14%) GPs report having experienced suicidal thoughts as a result of workload pressures, a survey by mental health charity Mind has found.

Almost all GPs (94%) describe their work life as either ‘very stressful’ or ‘fairly stressful’, according to the survey on mental health among primary care workers.

Almost one in 10 (8%) primary care workers said they had experienced suicidal thoughts due to workload stress, with this rising up to 14% when only GPs were taken into account.

Mind sampled opinions from over 1,000 NHS primary care workers, including 111 GPs.

Work was placed as the most stressful area of respondents' lives, above finances, family life, health and relationships with significant others.

Unsustainable pressures

Half of GPs (50%) also reported knock-on consequences for their physical health, and 85% said stress was affecting their ability to sleep. A quarter (23%) reported having developed some kind of mental health problem.

GP leaders warned that the results showed the profession was battling against ‘unsustainable pressure’ that pushing them ‘to the limit’.

GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This poll reinforces the BMA findings that GPs and their staff are under unsustainable pressure because they are having to work long, intense hours on dwindling resources against a backdrop of rocketing patient demand.

‘The government has recently announced, following BMA lobbying, a new service for GPs suffering from stress and burnout, but we need to ensure all parts of the primary care workforce have access to appropriate support.

GP mental health

‘We also need to address the root cause of the problems facing general practice by delivering a properly funded, fully staffed service that can meet the public’s needs, and ensure that GPs are able to work within safe and manageable limits.’

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘The current state of general practice is pushing GPs to their limit, and these results show it is having a serious impact on their physical and mental health. It goes without saying that a service that relies on sick and fatigued GPs is not good for patient safety.

‘General practice is a fantastic and rewarding career, and we look to the government to implement the pledges made in the GP Forward View as a matter of urgency, so that we can keep our profession strong, now and in the future, for the benefit of the wider NHS and our patients.’

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: ‘Everyone has mental health that needs looking after and this is just as true for GPs, nurses and their colleagues in primary care. These figures paint a worrying picture, suggesting that levels of stress among primary care staff are having a real impact on both their mental and physical wellbeing.’

Photo: iStock

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