Sharp rise in GPs reporting worsening mental health in COVID-19 pandemic

More than half of GPs are experiencing work-related mental health problems and the proportion reporting worsening symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic has risen sharply in the past month, BMA polling reveals.

GPs under pressure (Photo: Martin Prescott/Getty Images)
GPs under pressure (Photo: Martin Prescott/Getty Images)

Of nearly 1,300 GPs who responded to a BMA survey this month, 53% overall reported currently experiencing a work-related mental health problem including burnout, anxiety, stress, depression or emotional distress.

A total of 38% of respondents said their condition had worsened during the pandemic, with a further 15% reporting currently experiencing a work-related mental health issue that had not worsened during the pandemic.

GP responses to the same question in July found that 43% of GPs overall were experiencing a work-related mental health problem. A total of 29% of all respondents said their condition had worsened during the pandemic, while 16% said they had a work-related mental health problem that had remained unchanged.

GP burnout

The findings suggest that rising workload in general practice is taking a heavy toll on the profession.

Analysis of data from the RCGP and NHS Digital by GPonline has shown a sharp rise in workload in recent months - underscoring warnings from GPs that demand in general practice has already risen above pre-pandemic levels.

GP leaders have warned NHS leaders not to underestimate pressure on general practice as it prepares to deliver the largest flu campaign in NHS history, with more than 30m patients set to be offered the jab this year in a bid to prevent a major flu outbreak coinciding with a possible second wave of COVID-19.

Analysis of RCGP surveillance data by GPonline shows that workload in general practice over the past month has consistently outstripped overall workload in the same period in 2019.

Depression on the rise

Findings from the BMA polling come after the Office for National Statistics published data showing that nearly one in five adults were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in June 2020 - almost double the proportion experiencing depression before the pandemic.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned in April that doctors working through the pandemic had faced 'exceptional challenges', working long hours, with shortages of vital PPE, and watching members of their profession lose their lives to the virus. He said: 'It is unthinkable that this would not take an emotional and mental toll.'

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey warned this month that it is 'critical that practices are given proper support and resources from NHS England and the DHSC'.

Click here to for more information on how GPs struggling to cope can access help and support

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