UK GPs twice as likely to work part time as EU counterparts

UK GPs are more than twice as likely to work part-time as their European counterparts and are more likely to report severe burnout, a survey shows.

GP consultation (Photo: sturti/Getty Images)
GP consultation (Photo: sturti/Getty Images)

A survey comparing the working lives of doctors across Europe found the UK to be the country with the most part-time doctors, with one in four working 30 hours or less a week.

Broken down by speciality, 52% of the 184 UK GP respondents worked part time. This was significantly higher than the proportion of GPs working part time in other European countries, including France (23%), Germany (23%), Portugal (4%) and Spain (13%).

The survey of nearly 700 European GPs by Medscape also found that UK family doctors were the most likely to report severe burnout.

GP burnout

One in three UK GPs overall said they were either burned out, depressed or both. This was lower than the 40% average across the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Portugal - but 9% of all UK GPs reported burnout at a level 'so severe I am thinking of leaving medicine altogether’, compared with between 4% and 7% in other nations.

The causes of GP burnout seemed to be universal, with ‘too many bureaucratic tasks’ voted the biggest contributing factor across all participating European countries.

NHS Digital data published earlier this year found that the proportion of GPs working full time (37.5 hours per week) in England fell below 30% for the first time in September 2018.

But although the figures imply that GPs are reducing their working hours, a recent GPonline poll revealed that almost four in five GPs work longer than their contracted hours. Half of respondents to the GPonline survey said they complete 30% or more hours than they are contracted to provide, while one in 10 ‘part-time’ GPs said they work more than a full-time week.

Workforce

Speaking at the time, GP leaders said the figures reflected a workforce under extreme pressure, with GPs forced to reduce their working hours to manage risk and workload.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'It's clear that GPs continue to work excessively long hours, which all too often leaves them stressed and exhausted. In such situations the risk is that mistakes will be made, and no patient wants to be looked after by a tired doctor.

'This continued workload pressure is having an impact on recruitment and retention of GPs, and is one of the main reasons we continue to see a fall in GP numbers.'

The Medscape survey contained results from nearly 20,000 practising doctors. On average, it found that 27% of doctors from all specialities across all countries were burned out, 7% were depressed and 10% were ‘both burned out and depressed’. 55% did not feel burned out or depressed.

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