New Concerns Surrounding GP Mental Health

Following on from our recent article about GP anxiety, new statistics have come to light regarding GP mental health in all its forms.

According to the BBC, reports of mental ill health among GPs and junior doctors are higher than ever. Many feel that depression, anxiety and panic disorder are still seen as taboo in the NHS, which means there is next to no confidentiality for those affected. This is why GPs often have no choice but to suffer in silence.

What are the new concerns surrounding GP mental health?

Figures from the Office for National Statistics reported that 430 UK health professionals took their own lives between 2011-2015. Stress in the medical profession is nothing new, but the spike in suicides among doctors show that GP mental health is worsening.

The BBC, while exploring the issue of GP mental health, spoke to the friends and family members of those who had taken their own lives while working for the NHS. They blamed a combination of stress, long working hours and patient complaints for the resurfacing of pre-existing mental health conditions, such as depression and bipolar disorder.

Where is the support for GP mental health?

Although GPs know precisely where to refer patients for mental health treatment, support for medical staff is lacking. The NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) is currently the only confidential service that offers doctors a range of mental health assessments and treatments.

Medical Director, Dr Clare Gerada, says:

Doctors are at an incredibly high risk for mental illness. Female doctors have up to four times the risk of suicide in comparison to people in the [general] population.”

The PHP is only one support system trying to tackle a national epidemic. What’s more, doctors can only self-refer to the PHP without having to inform their Clinical Commissioning Group if they work in London, which means only a handful can remain anonymous.

Other staff can access the PHP service, but not anonymously. As a result, many doctors are afraid to lose their credibility or license in the profession if they admit to mental health difficulties.

While the PHP has helped more than 5,000 doctors in 10 years, more help is needed if the NHS is to tackle its GP mental health crisis. Confidential mental health support needs to be available to all medical staff in the UK, not just those living in London.

Are there other solutions to aid GP mental health?

Although there are no proven causes of depression and anxiety, studies have repeatedly shown that severe stress, disrupted sleep patterns and working more than 40 hours a week can negatively impact our mental health. All of these are commonplace among GPs, with recent studies reporting 50-hour weeks and never-ending admin work.

While the GP Forward View has plans to reduce the workload on GPs and increase funding for practices, many are sceptical that the Government will find the resources. Others are confident of change but fear the initiative will be slow to come into effect.

Sadly, many GPs are leaving the profession because of its toll on their lifestyles, as well as their own mental and physical health. Others are switching to out-of-hours-work, which tends to come with fewer pressures, less busy work hours and less casework.

If you think out-of-hours (OOH) work would be better for your mental health, you can view the latest OOH roles on our jobs page. You can also call us to discuss your job requirements (03000 243 333), or contact us for more information about becoming an OOH GP.