Mental health problems among GPs 'deeply concerning' but not surprising given workload pressures, says College

Publication date: 23 August 2018

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a new survey from Mind, which found that two in five GPs said they were experiencing a mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.

She said: "GPs, indeed most healthcare professionals, are renowned for putting their patients' health before their own – and given the intense pressures currently facing general practice, this very high proportion of GPs living with mental health problems is deeply concerning, but not a total surprise.

"GPs work incredibly hard, often putting in 12-hour days in clinic, making upwards of 60 patient contacts a day, and dealing with huge amounts of administrative work. This relentless workload will inevitably take its toll on both doctors' physical and mental health and wellbeing, however resilient they may be.

"Workload in general practice has increased by at least 16% over the last seven years, both in volume and complexity, but the share of the NHS budget our profession receives is less than it was a decade ago, and GP numbers are falling. The result is that highly-skilled and much-needed doctors are becoming disenchanted, exhausted, and burnt-out, with many being forced to take the drastic decision to leave the profession altogether.

"It's a terrible irony that GPs, the gatekeepers of the NHS who spend their lives caring for others, are often suffering in silence about their mental health and don't feel as though they're able to reach out and ask for help.

"More needs to be done to solve the root cause of the untenable workload and pressures that GPs are dealing with, and that means more resources, and more doctors and practice team members working in UK general practice.

"Being a GP can be the best job in the world, but only when we're given the resources to do it properly - no one should have to work in an environment which puts their own health at risk, least of all their mental health and wellbeing.

"As long-term plans for the NHS are being drawn up, it is vital that the key role general practice plays in keeping our patients safe, and the rest of the NHS is sustainable, and we are calling for an extra £2.5bn a year for our service – as well as the pledges made in NHS England's GP Forward View, including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs, which need to be delivered as a matter of urgency.

"In the meantime, the College is committed to improving GP wellbeing and offers online resources, as well as regular events to help healthcare professionals combat stress and burnout. GPs in England can also seek help via the NHS GP Health Service, which provides additional support for those struggling with their mental health."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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