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Record numbers of GPs seeking help with anxiety, stress and sleeping difficulties

by Anna Colivicchi
20 January 2023

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A growing number of GPs are having to seek mental health support for the first time because of the ‘ongoing pressures’ on the NHS.

NHS Practitioner Health has warned that a record number of GPs are turning to its services to receive help with stress, anxiety and difficulties sleeping, due to the current pressures on the health service.

Lucy Warner, Practitioner Health’s chief executive, said that the service, which helps with a range of mental health conditions and addictions for healthcare staff for free, registered 184 patients in the last week of 2022.

This was the same number that it registered in the whole of the service’s first year in 2008.

GPs represent almost 40% of the registrations, with over half coming from secondary care doctors, and the rest from other professions.

Ms Warner said: ‘What is worrying is that we are seeing experienced resilient staff who have never sought help in the past, feeling panicked and hopeless about how to deal with the ongoing pressures they are experiencing.

‘Demand has been at very high levels in the last three months and we are currently dealing with new requests for support around one third over our available capacity and triaging all new referrals to ensure those in most urgent need are seen soonest.

‘There is no doubt that work pressures are a significant factor with people reporting stress, struggling, feeling overwhelmed and low mood. Anxiety, signs of depression and difficulties sleeping are also common.

‘This is the busiest period I have known in 15 years of operating Practitioner Health and a significant rise on the levels we would expect to see at this time of year.’

Dr Elizabeth Croton, from Doctors’ Association UK GP Committee, said that it is ‘imperative’ that GPs have access to mental health support that is tailored to their needs. 

She said: ‘The pressure on GPs is so intense that it can become the “norm” to put oneself last on the list of people they take care of and this is really not okay. 

‘Self-care is not selfish and is an essential part of coping with this current work climate. The anti-GP media rhetoric has certainly, to my mind, had a negative effect on the mental health of GPs. I really hope that those who have participated in this coverage will be held to account one day.’

GPs struggling with mental health issues can get confidential support free from ]Practitioner Health here.

A list of resources for mental health support and wellbeing is also available from the Doctors’ Association UK here.

This article was first published on our sister title Pulse