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Practice dynamics impact GPs stress levels, a study in the BMJ has found

by Valeria Fiore
15 January 2018

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The ever-increasing workload  for doctors in England and demanding patients are among the key factors for stress for GPs,  a study published in online journal BMJ Open reveals.

The study analysed results coming from 47 interviews with burnout GPs that had either taken a short leave from the service, retired due to illness or did not present any mental health issue.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham found that the majority of those interviewed voiced a feeling of isolation that exacerbates as they find hard to speak to colleagues under the current workload pressures.

One interviewee said: ‘As the workload increased, the coffee time became less important in everyone’s day, because they would catch up with their paperwork or phone calls or extras.’

Difficult relations with abusive colleagues led to staff turnover in some cases: ‘There was one GP who was a bit of a bully and the rest were just unsupportive. And the patients were fed up because they had had so many changes of GPs’, said one respondent.

GPs were also put off by demanding patients and feared dealing with complaints, financial issues, appraisals, inspections and demands of revalidation, the researchers found.

An anonymous GP said: ‘A lot of the additional work and tick-boxing and bureaucracy we’re being asked to do could be done away with.

‘The CQC thing has kind of exploded from nowhere. We’re being charged thousands of pounds to provide evidence of X, Y and Z, and there is no basis that this proves that one GP surgery is better than another, it’s just an enforced grading system.’

Researchers said that not only GPs need to be trained on how to respond to patients’ needs without getting overwhelmed, but also that a ‘safe space for GPs’ should be provided for them to voice their concerns.

Providing a safe space for GPs to process the emotional and clinical content of their work and the potential stressors related to the organisational culture (e.g. bullying in the workplace) and relationships at work (e.g. collegial conflict) is imperative.’