Time for NHS to 'wake up' to GP burnout risk, warns next RCGP chair

The NHS must 'wake up' and tackle high levels of burnout among doctors to guarantee safer practice for patients, the incoming chair of the RCGP has warned.

Next RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall (Photo: Pete Hill)
Next RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall (Photo: Pete Hill)

In the week that he is due to take over from Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Professor Martin Marshall said that the working conditions of doctors had to be improved, warning that ‘undoable’ workloads were not an ‘inconsequential problem’.

His comments follow a GMC report that found doctors with high levels of burnout could have up to a 63% higher chance of making a major medical error in the following three months.

The same report found that GPs were working under intense and unsustainable pressure, which had eroded their relationship with patients and standards of care.

GP workload

Professor Marshall, who begins a three-year term as RCGP chair on Saturday 23 November, wrote on Twitter that it was 'time to wake up'.

Professor Marshall has previously raised concerns over high burnout levels in general practice and vowed to make tackling heavy workload a top priority.

Speaking at the RCGP annual conference last month, he said it was crucial that GPs had the space to deliver the best possible care and the opportunity to explore how they might want to evolve their roles.

Meanwhile, in an interview with GPonline in September, Professor Marshall admitted that he was seeing twice as many patients as he did when he began his career 30 years ago.

Improving GP retention

He said at the time that reducing the number of consultations GPs carry out per day and allowing them to spend longer with patients was key to improving job satisfaction and retention - and could improve patient outcomes.

Nearly half of doctors have considered quitting their jobs because of concerns about their personal wellbeing in the face of increased workload, according to a Medical Protection Society (MPS) survey, with president Professor Dame Jane Dacre saying levels of burnout were ‘extremely troubling’.

Meanwhile, the number of GPs using a specialist NHS mental health and addiction service increased by almost 50% over the past year, rising from 1,188 to 1,855 GPs who had registered. An average of 90 GPs have requested help every month since April.

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