A practical guide: GP burnout

27 May 2021 By Camille Wilson

​Today, mental health is recognised as equally important as physical health and healthcare professionals deserve just as much mental health support as their patients. Given the fast-paced nature of healthcare, the strain on GPs, nurses, clinicians and other healthcare professionals’ mental health can be intense, but with more awareness and support in the workplace, the rates of burnout can be reduced.

In 2020, the British Medical Association (BMA) surveyed 1,300 GPs and reported that 53% were currently experiencing work-related mental health problems including burnout, anxiety, stress, depression or emotional distress. A lack of mental health support in healthcare has also been linked to high staff turnover and GPs leaving clinical employment altogether to pursue non-clinical work such as research, consultancy, teaching, or charity engagements. If left unchecked, GP burnout and mental health could impact healthcare facilities’ ability to provide high-quality patient care by reducing the number of available GPs for appointments and referrals.

Here at Medical Staffing, we are dedicated to providing our GPs, nurses and clinicians with as much support as possible with their mental health, particularly when navigating the numerous stress triggers that can lead to burnout. We are also committed to providing our clients help in reducing GP burnout and the subsequent impact this could have on the level of patient care they can provide.

Definition of ‘burnout’ in medicine

‘Burnout’ is the term used to refer to a state of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion caused by ongoing involvement in highly-pressurised situations. The mental toll that being responsible for large numbers of patients can be immense and have far-reaching effects for GPs and clinicians. Burnout can lead to a lack of motivation, professional accomplishment, and the feeling of being unable to ‘give’ anymore.

GP burnout symptoms

In a profession that seeks to identify the signs and symptoms of mental health in others, it’s important that the same duty of care be extended to GPs and healthcare professionals. Some signs and symptoms to look out for as an employer include:

  • Poor concentration and memory

  • Fatigue, tiredness or insomnia

  • Increased mistakes or indecisiveness

  • Frustration or irritability

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Isolation or alienation

  • Unenthusiastic behaviour

  • Avoidance of phone calls and delegation

How to support GPs’ mental health and prevent burnout

One of the defining aspects of GP burnout is giving too much time, care and effort for too little recognition or support. Medical Staffing is dedicated to ensuring that our GPs have access to the mental health and career support they need in the following areas:

  • Career advice: we offer ongoing career guidance and feedback to ensure GPs that every assignment contributes to their long-term career goals

  • Senior-level insight: we offer guidance on complaints procedures, appraisals, CPD, and much more

  • Peer-let support groups: we are working on putting together a ‘buddy’ or mentoring system amongst the Medical Staffing GP community

  • Professional development: in the future we hope to offer a log of doctors among the Medical Staffing team who are, or have been, appraisers and are willing to help their colleagues on a voluntary basis with appraisals, providing supporting evidence, and mandatory training

  • Professional understanding: We understand that GP burnout is a reality and mental health is under exceptional strain at this time. Our consultants will help to support you in any way they can. If you are experiencing difficulty, check out the NHS’s supportive portal: Our NHS People where you can find lots of online resources to support you at this time.

During our hot topic series, our Head of Client Development, Sarah Bell, will be exploring a new subject each month, providing commentary and advice on pressing issues for practices. If you have any topics you would like to know more about, please get in touch.

If you would like to discuss staffing issues, find flexible resourcing solutions that suit the individual needs of your organisation, or just get have some questions answered, Sarah, is happy to speak with you.

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