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Practice staff resignation enquiries rose by 45% during pandemic, union says

by Jess Hacker
14 April 2021

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The number of practice staff and GPs to request advice on resignation increased by 45% from 2019/20 to 2020/21, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) has said.

In 2020/21, MDU members made 136 enquiries for advice on resignation, up from 94 in 2019/20, figures published by the union yesterday (13 April) show.

This represents 9% of the 2,860 enquiries the MDU’s advice line received between March 2020 – when the first national lockdown was imposed – and February 2021.

Almost half of the total enquiries were relating to absence and conduct (24% and 23% respectively), while 12% related to terms and conditions of contracts and 7% on grievances.

Sick leave remained the most popular reason for an absence-related enquiry, the MDU said, with the overall number of queries on this dropping slightly from 502 in 2019/20 to 444 in 2020/21.

However, it added that the number of absence queries concerning medical capability – such as queries about a health condition which might affect an employee’s attendance or performance at work – rose by 153% from 52 to 132 over the same period.

Dr Caroline Fryar, head of advisory services at the MDU, said: ‘Both GPs and practice staff are used to dealing with high-pressure situations and making difficult decisions but the pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges and also presented many new ones.

‘At the MDU, our role is to advise, support and lessen the burden on members and as such we encourage them to contact the employment advice line early if they are aware of a situation which may escalate further.’

In November, the MDU revealed it was supporting doctors with more than 2,500 complaints and adverse incidents reporting during the Covid pandemic.

It came after a General Medical Council report found 81% of GPs had felt unable to offer a sufficient level of care at some point in 2020 due to issues such as high workload and burnout, and 43% said they experience this every week.