100 GPs a month seeking help for mental illness and addiction

CREDIT: This story was first seen in iNews, written by Paul Gallagher

Around 100 GPs a month are seeking professional help for mental illness and addiction as increasing numbers of doctors struggle to cope with unbearable workloads, iNews reports.

A total of 1,109 GPs have have sought help from the NHS GP Health Service since it was set up a year ago – with one in four quitting medicine completely. Around 900 doctors are still currently using the scheme.

Most cases seen by the service involve stress, anxiety and depression, with around 15% coming forward with “more significant mental health conditions” and about two per cent involving addiction. Two thirds of doctors seeking help from the GP Health Service are women and around half of the service’s caseload is aged between 30 and 40 years old.

Dr Euan Lawson, Lancaster Medical School The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) warned last month warned a “relentless” workload has left family doctors across the UK working at unsafe levels.

A survey of 900 GPs revealed that doctors are seeing on average around 41.5 patients every day when 25 is considered safe. RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard has repeatedly said GPs are regularly working way beyond what could be considered safe for patients, and potentially jeopardising their own health and well-being.

Dr Zoe Norris, a 36-year-old GP from Hull, told i she was on the verge of quitting medicine until she sought help from the GP health service.

“I realised I wasn’t the only one and there are hundreds of GPs needing help,” she said.

Workload GP workload has risen at least 16% over the last seven years, yet the share of the overall NHS budget general practice receives is less than it was a decade ago.

The result has been individual doctors more prone to making mistakes due to increased workloads and patients frustrated they cannot get appointments.

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Most recent figures show a near 10 per cent rise in number of complaints across primary care – from 82,559 in 2015/16 to 90,579 in 2016/17.

The largest number of complaints concerned communication followed by clinical treatment, staff attitude and behaviour and appointment availability.

Dr Euan Lawson, author of Wellbeing: Combatting Burnout in general practice and director of community studies at Lancaster Medical School, said: “The effect of many different stressors on GPs has been likened to the effect of rising water temperatures on a boiling frog.

“It seems that GPs are burning out quickly and burning out young. Nearly half of the current workforce is committed to leaving general practice or considering doing so in the near future. Worryingly, half of GP leavers are younger than 50 years old and 77% of those planning on switching careers are younger than 55 years old.”

Sad The GP Health Service was created on January 30 last year, incorporating a few locally run projects such as the GP element of London’s Practitioner Health Programme (PHP). It is led by former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada, who has also been running the Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) – a service offering support to London doctors – for almost a decade.

Professor Gerada, a GP herself, said both schemes had supported around 5,000 doctors to deal with stress or addiction issues.

“What surprised us is how sad it has all been,” she told GPonline.

“To see my hardworking profession – fantastic colleagues – giving their all and continuing to try so hard. I think politicians are beginning to realise we can’t make water from wine – we can’t make miracles. Hopefully change is in the air.”

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