Over half of GPs (52%) say their mental health is worse now than it was during the pandemic, a survey by The Medical Protection Society (MPS) has found.
More than half (55%) of respondents pointed to the impact of exhaustion on their mental health and 50% referred to the inability to take breaks to eat and drink (50%).
The effect of referral waiting list times on patients’ prognosis was a factor for 48% of those surveyed.
One GP said in the survey: ‘My mental wellbeing has deteriorated over the three years since 2020. Conversely there was more support when there was less need (in 2020).’
The MPS survey of nearly 900 doctors, of which 271 are GPs, also found 82% of GPs said that staff shortages make it difficult for them to take time off to deal with mental health issues.
It revealed that 80% of GPs feel the Government is not doing enough to help healthcare professionals with mental health issues and 55% are considering their future in healthcare due to mental health concerns.
A GP respondent said: ‘My mental health is suffering, I need time off but I’m not allowed to take it as there are not enough staff. If I get to breaking point, I will have to go off sick which I don’t want to do as it impacts on my colleagues and patients.’
And another said: ‘Feel absolutely powerless to change anything other than to leave medicine. Patients demanding and abusive, waiting lists in the years, totally out of my control.’
The MPS has published the survey after NHS England said it will make available £2.3million for 2023/24 – shared between seven regions – to maintain the 40 NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs that currently exist. The hubs, created during the pandemic, provide access to mental health services and support and are free to use by health and social care staff.
However, the MPS also highlighted data obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the British Psychological Society showing that the total running cost of the 40 hubs to be around £40 million.
The limited funding allocation could ‘threaten the sustainability of the 40 hubs at a time when they may be needed most,’ the MPS said.
It also warned the funding is also short term, so after March 2024 regional teams will need to work with Integrated Care Boards to agree the best approach to providing mental health support for their workforce and find funding for it.
Professor Dame Jane Dacre, MPS President, said: ‘Half of our members tell us their mental health is worse now than it was during the pandemic, and a similar amount are considering their future in healthcare due to mental health concerns. We are also seeing more staff absent from work due to mental ill health than ever before.
‘It therefore seems absolutely the wrong time to scale back mental health provision for healthcare staff and risk the sustainability of an established network of hubs that are crucial in supporting mental wellbeing and retention.’
She urged the Government to provide ‘sustainable funding to strengthen the hubs’.
‘While retention is complex and multi-faceted, investment in mental health support for staff is a fundamental pillar,’ she added.
The British Psychological Society has been leading a campaign, #FundNHSHubs, to secure the future of the wellbeing hubs.