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Home » Future of Healthcare » GP mental health: why we must recognise the person behind the doctor

Dr Harriet Bradley

Medical Director UK, LIVI

GP mental health is an increasingly troubling issue, and we must not forget to think about the people who look after our health.

As a GP, I’m often asked what I believe is the biggest challenge facing general practice today. The clear answer for me is protecting clinician wellbeing.

Current state of GP mental health

In recent times, there have been increased instances of clinician suicide, hostility towards doctors on social media and abuse in surgeries. Also, levels of work-related stress and burnout are on the rise to such a level that I think it can no longer be accepted as ‘just part of the job.’ 

In the Medical Minds survey of UK GPs, commissioned by Livi, four in five doctors said they had experienced either stress, anxiety, depression, burnout or PTSD in the last two years. Only a third said they did not require support for their mental health at present.

Possible solutions to help

First, we need to talk about these issues a lot more. We need to change how clinicians are viewed and see the ‘person behind the doctor’ as it were. Open recognition of clinician burnout, more balanced media coverage for GPs and better patient-facing information could all help.

In the workplace, setting a realistic, nationalised standard for the number of patient contacts per day and administrative requirements could ease current pressures. And providing more flexibility to GPs in terms of working patterns is something I’ve seen have a positive effect firsthand as Medical Director in a large digital healthcare company.

We need to change how clinicians are viewed and see the ‘person behind the doctor’ as it were.

Where demand is overwhelming, digital tools can enable capacity to be targeted across the system. Furthermore, automation can help reduce the administrative burden placed on clinicians.

Finally, we need to identify potential signs of burnout before it’s too late and provide more comprehensive support for GPs, particularly given that more than half of the doctors we surveyed said they had considered leaving the profession due to their mental health.

This GP ‘wellbeing problem’ poses an existential threat to the long-term future of general practice. To truly tackle the workforce crisis, we must tackle this as well.

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