Poll reveals huge scale of pandemic impact on GP mental health

Almost 30% of GPs say they or clinical colleagues have been off work in the past month with mental health problems caused by working in the COVID-19 pandemic, a BMA poll reveals.

GPs under pressure in pandemic (Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)
GPs under pressure in pandemic (Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

A regular BMA survey, which analyses the impacts of the coronavirus crisis, found that 29% of GPs said they or a clinical colleague had taken time off work because of mental health problems such as stress and anxiety triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey revealed that more than half of GPs were suffering from mental health issues last month, with two in five of all respondents saying these issues were worse than before the start of the pandemic.

Out of 2,556 GP respondents, three in five described their current level of fatigue or exhaustion as ‘higher than normal’ while working or studying during the pandemic - 30% said their stress levels at work were normal.

GP wellbeing

Over half of GPs admitted that their current level of wellbeing was worse than during the first wave of the pandemic, with 12% saying it was ‘much worse’.

Around two in five of all doctors are suffering from mental ill health relating to or made worse by working during the pandemic - this was down slightly from 45% in December.

The statistics follow a poll last month that found more than half of GPs are considering quitting the profession or retiring early following the coronavirus pandemic. BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned in January that further reductions to the workforce ‘can sorely be afforded with an existing shortage’ of GPs.

Commenting on the results of the BMA survey, DAUK GP advisory group representative Dr Claire Ashley said GP practices were delivering more appointments than ever, and 'having to deal with ever-sicker and more complex patients in the community' because of limited access to routine hospital services.

COVID-19 pandemic

'Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, general practice was facing a recruitment and retention crisis, and it has served to create the perfect storm for the development of mental health problems and burnout of GPs,' she said. 'The figures quoted by the BMA are shocking, and reveal the depths to which a year of working through three lockdowns with very limited resources, new ways of working, and increased patient demand has affected the mental health of our dedicated GP workforce.'

Statistics from NHS Practitioner Health, meanwhile, have revealed that more than 200 GPs a month are seeking mental health support as COVID-19 drives up pressure on the NHS.

A senior fellow from the King's Fund think tank told MPs last year that ‘chronic stress’ caused by high workload was damaging the health and wellbeing of NHS workers. Dr Nagpaul has previously warned that doctors' workload is out of control and must be capped.

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