New data indicates that the NHS has the most stressed GPs in the Western world.
A combination of relentless workloads, coupled with bureaucracy and logistical problems, results in the shortest amount of time spent with patients.
The research was conducted by the Commonwealth Fund; widely considered to be one of the most influential think tanks in the world in any industry.
Data from the study indicated that the stress levels among British GPs are so high that almost 30% plan to quit in the next five years.
It is also thought that new pension regulations will have a significant influence over this number.
The knock-on effect of this issue is that patients will find it increasingly difficult to acquire an appropriate appointment.
And the growing pressures on family doctors in the NHS are such that over 20% have become ill in the last 12 months.
Just under six in 10 GPs (59%) find their work stressful, with 39% of these saying it is very stressful and 20% extremely stressful.
Researchers surveyed 11,547 GPs in 11 countries, including France, Germany and the United States.
Commenting on the issue, Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the UK-based Health Foundation thinktank, which assisted with the study, suggested that the level of stress in the NHS should be considered as serious as the many other problems facing the health service.
“These worrying findings reveal the scale of the challenge facing general practice. The survey suggests that UK GPs’ unhappiness may be driven by their spending less time with patients than they would like. The relentless appointment treadmill experienced by UK GPs is in stark contrast to that reported by their peers overseas.”
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, had pledged in 2015 it to recruit 5,000 additional GPs, yet refused to comment on the findings of this study.
At the time Hunt had stated that “general practice is the jewel in the crown of the NHS and central to the future of the health service.”
Prof Nigel Mathers, the honorary secretary of the Royal College of GPs, was firm in his assertion that excessive stress levels can ultimately lead to poor performance and potentially life-threatening mistakes being made.
“Such high levels of stress amongst GPs in the UK compared to other countries is bad news for the NHS and for our patients, as growing numbers of family doctors are becoming dissatisfied with their working circumstances and consider leaving the profession.”
It seems that in the existing NHS culture that ministers and the Department of Health should prioritise efforts to relieve the growing pressures on doctors.
Additionally, any attempts to increase the workforce working in general practice would obviously be valuable.