Some 33% of 185 GPs responding to a survey by Medscape described themselves as ‘burned out’, ‘depressed’ or ‘both burned out and depressed’ - with the majority (62%) citing bureaucratic tasks such as paperwork as a contributory factor.
Other issues contributing to GPs poor mental health included ‘spending too many hours at work’ (57%) and ‘insufficient compensation’ (29%).
When broken down, the figures showed that 21% of GPs said they felt burned out, with 3% saying they were suffering from depression and 9% said they were experiencing both.
Just 13% of GPs affected by burnout or depression said they were seeking professional help, with a further 7% planning on doing so in the near future. Nearly half of GPs said they had considered retiring early in an effort to reduce burnout.
This comes just months after it was revealed that the specialist NHS GP Health Service was supporting over 1,300 GPs facing burnout, stress, addiction or other mental health issues. Figures show that between 70 and 100 GPs a month are seeking help from the service. Research published last October found that GPs were more at risk of burnout than doctors in other medical specialties.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said it was ‘no surprise’ that so many family doctors were struggling with stress and burnout.
‘GPs are under unprecedented pressures and we are working harder than ever, often putting in 12-hour days in clinic and on some days having to make more than 100 patient contacts to cope with the workload,’ she said. ‘As a result, talented and experienced GPs are reaching breaking point, with many feeling like they have no choice but to leave the profession prematurely because of the risk to their own health and wellbeing.’
Last year it was revealed that the number of GPs taking early retirement each year have doubled since the start of the decade, and an RCGP poll published last month showed that a third of GPs plan to quit the workforce within five years.
Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘There comes a point beyond which we can no longer guarantee safe patient care and much more needs to be done to solve the root cause of the workload and resource pressures primary care teams are dealing with.’
The Medscape survey contained results from nearly 1,000 UK doctors. Overall it found that 22% of doctors from all specialities feel burned out, 4% feel depressed and 10% feel both burned out and depressed. A quarter of all respondents said these issues left them feeling less engaged - and easily exasperated - with patients, while 3% admitted that burnout and depression meant they were more likely to make potentially harmful errors.