Healthy living

GP's at risk of burnout

GPs at risk of burnout Nearly half 'emotionally exhausted'

Nearly half of family doctors are at risk of burnout, research has found.

A study of GPs in South East England found almost half suffered from mental exhaustion, and a third felt they were not achieving a great deal.

In the largest study of its kind, some 564 out of 789 eligible GPs working in the county of Essex were assessed for burnout, using an established method known as the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI).

An MBI questionnaire assesses burnout by measuring emotional exhaustion; depersonalisation, expressed as negativity and cynicism; and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.

The findings showed that 46 per cent of GPs fitted the criteria for emotional exhaustion, while more than four out of 10 (42%) were depersonalised.

One in three (34%) felt they were not achieving a great deal at work.

Male GPs, those who work in group practices, and those who repeatedly see the same patients were more likely to be depersonalised and at a greater risk of burnout, the study found.

The finding that doctors were more at risk of burnout in group practices was described as "disappointing" by the researchers as working alongside others should be a more supportive working environment for GPs.

"The finding could be the result of group practice creating extra demands on practitioners while raising the possibility of interpersonal tensions and conflicts," the authors wrote in the journal BMJ Open.

"Regardless of cause, these findings are worrying as group practices are increasing in size and number," they added.

The authors suggested that the gender differences may be explained by a larger number of women doctors working part time or that women doctors are more patient-centred than their male colleagues, which may boost professional satisfaction.

Despite the study findings, burnout did not seem to interfere with doctors' professionalism, the researchers said.

"The results warrant attention from doctors themselves, their professional bodies, and the NHS.

"The NHS nationally and locally needs to review its policies, especially when generating increased pressures for this, the largest group of NHS doctors."

This article was published on Tue 31 January 2012

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