A SURVEY of GPs conducted by the mental health charity Mind found that 40 per cent said they were experiencing a mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The survey of over a 1,000 GPs also found that more were likely to look for mental health support from friends and family (84 per cent) or their own doctor (77 per cent), rather than colleagues (45 per cent), practice managers (30 per cent) or professional bodies such as the GMC (1 per cent).
Mind is calling on the government and NHS to tackle the work-related causes of stress and poor mental health, such as excessive workload and long hours. It is also calling on clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and GP practices to ensure the whole primary care workforce (including practice managers, reception staff and practice nurses) receives appropriate support when needed and has workplace policies and procedures in place to better promote staff wellbeing.
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, said: "These figures are really concerning. We knew from talking to primary care staff that many of them were experiencing poor mental health but hadn’t realised just how prevalent mental health problems were among GPs.
"Our research shows a lot of primary care professionals don’t feel comfortable talking to peers and colleagues if they’re struggling with their mental health… Working in healthcare doesn’t make it any easier to talk about your mental health at work. In fact, concerns over fitness to practise can make it harder. It needs to be okay for healthcare staff to talk about their mental health. Like anyone else, they need and should have support."
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, commented on the findings: "GPs, indeed most healthcare professionals, are renowned for putting their patients' health before their own – and given the intense pressures currently facing general practice, this very high proportion of GPs living with mental health problems is deeply concerning, but not a total surprise.
"Workload in general practice has increased by at least 16 per cent over the last seven years, both in volume and complexity, but the share of the NHS budget our profession receives is less than it was a decade ago, and GP numbers are falling. The result is that highly-skilled and much-needed doctors are becoming disenchanted, exhausted, and burnt-out, with many being forced to take the drastic decision to leave the profession altogether.
"More needs to be done to solve the root cause of the untenable workload and pressures that GPs are dealing with, and that means more resources, and more doctors and practice team members working in UK general practice."