Workload pressures pose “far-reaching consequences” says GMC

  • Date: 15 December 2021

A GMC annual survey found that 23 per cent of doctors said they were planning to leave the profession, which is up from 19 per cent in 2020.

The regulator warns that high workloads that jeopardise patients and leave doctors burnt out mean a fresh mindset is needed on how healthcare teams work together.

These concerns are outlined in the GMC’s annual The state of medical education and practice in the UK report.

The survey found that this year 7 per cent of all doctors said they had taken ‘hard steps’ towards leaving the profession, up from 4 per cent in 2020 and 3 per cent in 2019.

Over a third of doctors (35 per cent) said they were considering reducing their contracted hours in 2021, which is less than the 41 per cent who were considering doing so before the pandemic in 2019. This may reflect observations in the survey from some doctors who felt it was not realistic to reduce their hours in the current climate.

Over two-thirds of doctors found workload pressure a barrier to patient care and GPs (on average) described the workload on three quarters of their days as ‘high intensity’. Around a third reported being at high risk of burnout.

One positive note from the report was an unprecedented increase (21 per cent) in the number of students accepted into UK medical schools and commencing study in 2021/22.

Charlie Massey, the GMC’s Chief Executive, said: "Workloads and burnout levels are very worrying, and the pressures on our health services will remain challenging for the foreseeable future. The pandemic has had the effect of pressing ‘fast-forward’ on what was already a precarious situation.

"We’re seeing exhaustion and dissatisfaction returning to levels which are bad for doctors and bad for patients. We need a shift of mindset in the way doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals work together, or there could be far-reaching consequences for patient safety."

Dr Naeem Nazem, head of medical division at MDDUS, said: "The regulator’s report paints a hugely concerning picture of the extensive and relentless toll the pandemic has taken on doctors in 2021.

"It is vital the training and wellbeing of doctors is put front and centre of health care recovery planning.

"If this is ignored, we risk losing the opportunity to build on the innovations we saw introduced in the immediate response to Covid-19 as healthcare professionals stepped up to the challenge of pandemic."

Charlie Massey added: "There is cause for hope. Despite the difficulties, doctors still feel the pandemic has led to positive changes, particularly in relation to visible leadership, teamwork, high quality training environments and knowledge sharing across the profession. It is crucial that we embed and build on these benefits in the months ahead."

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