GP wellbeing matters in General Practice

I am writing this piece on Time to Talk day, and it got me thinking about GP wellbeing. It is an issue in general practice, it's been reported both in the news and academia. The Commonwealth fund recently surveyed doctors, finding that since the pandemic:

  • burnout and workload has increased
  • doctors are considering leaving
  • or not seeing patients.

There is also a correlation between doctors who felt that the quality of care had reduced since COVID, and reported on burnout, stress, and emotional distress. Looking at the trainee data in the 2022 national training survey, trainees associated to The RCGP had the third-highest percentage of people reporting high levels of burnout compared to the other colleges.

Outcomes from the Commonwealth fund report

One of the outcomes from the commonwealth fund report for me is that most physicians do not seek help meaning it's not just a problem in general practice. In a 2019 GMC survey, it found that doctors in training (one third) did not know where to seek wellbeing support. The RCGP website has helpful links and their five ways to improve wellbeing as a GP, including how to link your practice with a local park run. It's an initiative that can benefit everyone in the practice, be it with patients, can help to connect with the local community and become active.

Sign up on the RCGP website to become a parkrun practice.

Challenges and burnout

I recently read a BJGP article on achieving high performance in primary care, which acknowledged the challenges of burnout and suggests using framework that aims to facilitate effective teams, working within operational models will mean burnout can be avoided. The paper references the following core components:

  1. Science and informatics to measure real-time access to knowledge and digital capture of the care experience.
  2. Patient–clinician partnerships that engage and empower patients.
  3. Incentives that reward high value care and emphasise transparency.
  4. A continuous learning ethos that focuses on a leadership instilled culture of learning and provides supportive system competencies.
  5. Developing organisational structures and governance mechanisms that consider relevant policies and regulations, and help collaboration, learning, and research.

Staff wellbeing and support needs to be an explicit part of any framework that is aiming to address performance, especially when you consider the data we have already discussed.

Ideas and resources

I have compiled a few ideas and resources that feed both into a culture of learning, and developing organisational structures about what wellbeing means to you and your colleagues at a practice level.

These compassionate conversations are taking place throughout primary care, but we aren't having them, amongst ourselves. There are likely similar fears to those in advanced care planning conversations, such as, 'what if we say something that can't be delivered, or do we have time for this?' Being in an environment where it is possible to start a conversation about what is important to us, in our working lives, seems to be a great place to start thinking about burnout and wellbeing.

Karen Turner talks about using what matters most in this way at the what matters most conference. The IHI framework for improving joy in the work white paper identifies four steps, which demonstrates how 'what matters conversations' can form part of an organisational structure and leadership.

Local events taking place

There are a few local events taking place next months focused on wellbeing and we would love for you to attend:

We would love to hear about any wellbeing event that has taken place in your practice or outside. Feel free to tweet us @SevernFacultyGP, @eve_barnes, and use #RCGPSevernblog to start a conversation.

About the writers


Dr Eve Barnes

Dr Eve Barnes

Dr Eve Barnes is an F2 doctor. Eve is interested in, older people community care and gerontology. Health policy, quality improvement and person-centred care.