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Burnout growing at a faster rate for GP trainees and trainers

by Jess Hacker
15 December 2021

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Levels of burnout are growing at a faster rate for GP trainees and trainers, compared with those in almost all other specialties, a major new report has said.

The GMC warned that the pandemic has had ‘a marked increase’ on trainee wellbeing, in its new survey of 50,000 trainees from across multiple professions.

In its annual The state of medical education and practice in the UK report (14 December), the Council found that 13% of trainees in general practices were at ‘high risk’ of burnout.

This number stood at 7% in 2019, marking an increase of six percentage points: the steepest increase among all professions, second only to ophthalmology (eight percentage points).

For GP trainers this increase was slightly smaller, growing from 10% to 13%.

It said: ‘Workloads and burnout are increasing at a faster rate for trainers and trainees in GP posts compared with most other specialties.

‘Trainees in GP posts reported the second-highest increase in heavy workloads. Among trainers, GPs too had the highest increase in workload, and the biggest decrease in protected time to train.’

GP trainees say remote consultations helped

The report also indicated that trainees remain anxious about the pandemic’s impact on opportunities for training or career progression.

Among all trainees, half (49%) reported they had ‘not been provided with effective alternatives’ to replace missed opportunities through simulation facilities or exercises.

However, three-quarters (74%) of GP trainees felt remote appointments were helping them to develop effective consultation skills.

And 75% said they had received appropriate feedback from their clinical supervisors to develop their remote consultation skills.

Third of GPs working at ‘high risk’ for burnout

The pattern was similarly present among the 895 GPs to respond, with around a third (32%) of GPs working while at a ‘high risk’ of burnout.

Additionally, 54% said they are struggling with workload on a weekly basis, compared with 26% in 2020.

The GMC said that GPs ‘are once again reporting much greater pressure than any other group’.

Dr Latifa Patel, BMA interim representative body chair and workforce lead said the responses ‘underline the need for the Government to lay out a comprehensive NHS workforce plan’ to meet the needs of the population.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘Excellent work is ongoing to recruit more GPs – and more GPs are in training than ever before – but when more are leaving the profession than entering it, we are fighting a losing battle.’

He added that the NHS needs ‘clear, robust plans’ to keep experienced GPs in the workforce for longer.

Addressing the ‘undoable’ workload in general practice which is leading to GPs burning out and leaving the profession earlier than planned is key, he said.

Data published last week indicated that 40 additional GPs left general practice between September and October in England this year, bringing the total to 321 since last December.

The news came as NHS figures confirmed that the waiting list for routine hospital treatment has grown to 5.98 million people.

The NHS had been warned that efforts to clear the backlog cannot risk ‘overloading’ GPs.


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