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GPs in group practices ‘at higher risk of burnout’

31 January 2012

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GPs who work in group practices and repeatedly see the same patients are at an increased risk of burnout.

A study of over 550 GPs working in the Essex area were assessed for ‘burnout’ using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) measure.

Almost one in two GPs responding to the study were found to be ’emotionally exhausted’, 42% were ‘depersonalised’ and a third of respondents felt ‘they were not achieving a great deal’.

The study’s findings led to a warning that “a significant group of doctors is in trouble”.

Male GPs and recently-qualified GPs (under 20 years) were “significantly” more likely to be depersonalised than their female counterparts and those GPs who qualified more than 20 years ago respectively.

“This gender difference can be explained by female GPs getting more professional satisfaction out of giving a higher level of patient-centred care than male GPs”, says the researchers.

Depersonalised doctors were also found to be “significantly” more likely to work in group practices, rather than as single-handers – a finding the researchers deemed “disappointing”.

“Group practice could be creating extra demands on practitioners while raising the possibility of interpersonal tensions and conflicts,” says the study’s authors.

“Regardless of cause, these findings are worrying as group practices are increasing in size and numbers.”

A survey of almost 1900 patients suggests the high levels of burnout among Essex GPs have “no detrimental impact on their interpersonal skills or patient centredness”.

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“It is hard to agree or disagree as I don’t have the evidence but I don’t see why female GPs should be more patient-centred in their care than male GPs” – Knoxley Greaves, Southwark