01 December

GPs are facing “burnout” on a massive scale as a result of underfunding in the healthcare sector, according to numerous reports.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, has spoken out, following concerning reports that many GPs are now turning to alcohol and drugs to cope with excessive workloads that are now expected of them.

The concerns have been brought to the attention of the general public over the past month via survey results, with the results of one particular survey of 800 GPs being of particular interest to the media. The survey revealed that, of the 800 GPs surveyed, half had felt their ability to care for patients had been compromised by the intense workloads placed on them.  Both Pulse magazine and the television show Good Morning Britain dedicated a section to analyse the survey’s findings at the beginning of November.

The survey of 800 GPs revealed that around one in nine GPs turned to alcohol because of the pressure faced at work, with close to 6% turning to prescription drugs to cope.

In addition to those GPs, a further one in 10 had taken time off work in the past year due to stress, whilst a further 22% said they felt that the ongoing pressures and tension of work would likely lead to them requiring time off for stress in the coming year.

Professor Stokes-Lampard responded to the survey’s findings by commenting: “These are incredibly tough times for GPs throughout the UK.

“Our workload is increasing and becoming ever more complex, and we know that many GPs are putting their own health and wellbeing at risk – and burning out in some cases – as they do the best they can for their patients in increasingly difficult circumstances.”

“Fit and healthy GPs are good for patients, but we are trying to do more and more on less and less, and there is a limit beyond which we can no longer guarantee that we are practising safely for our patients and protecting our own health and wellbeing. That is hugely stressful for caring professionals and their patients.

“What we are seeing now is the result of a decade of underinvestment in our family doctor service. Our workload has increased by 16% over the past seven years, our ageing population means people are living longer but with complex and multiple conditions, yet the number of GPs has remained largely stagnant.”

Professor Stokes-Lampard believes that there is an ever-increasing need for greater investment to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.

“Being a GP can be an immensely satisfying and rewarding profession, as long as it is properly supported, but we desperately need more investment in our service, including more GPs.

“NHS England’s GP Forward View promises an extra £2.4 billion per year for general practice, 5,000 extra GPs, and 5,000 extra members of the practice team by 2021. If this is delivered in full it will go a long way towards building a healthier workforce, which is good news for GPs and our patients. We need similar commitments in the devolved nations too.”

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