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Why Doctors Must Beware The Threat Of Burnout

Doctors can often lead stressful working lives, but the last couple of years have been particularly intense because of the pandemic, causing some to suffer burnout.

This is an issue shared with other medical staff and has been highlighted in a report by MPS on the House of Commons Health Select Committee, which said it was one of the contributing factors to what committee chair and former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called the “greatest workforce crisis in NHS history,” as widespread resignations leave the NHS with 105,000 vacancies.

While there are wider issues at play, such as claims of bullying and concerns about pay rates in some roles, the issue of stress and burnout among doctors is a familiar topic. This suggests GPs and hospital doctors alike could benefit from having a work coach to enable them to deal with the mental challenges the role brings.

The General Medical Council (GMC) also raised this issue, with a recent report on the strains placed on doctors by NHS backlogs in the wake of the pandemic stating that “the risk of burnout is now at its worst since it was first tracked in 2018”.

In response to this, the GMC has called for action, asking for “clinicians’ wellbeing and training to be at the heart of workforce planning as health services continue their post-pandemic recovery”.

In particular, it noted that the health regulator had said in last year’s report into the state of the NHS that the strains felt by staff should be seen as a ‘blip’, but in fact matters had got worse.

For example, it found that two-thirds of trainee doctors said they “always” or “often” felt worn out at the end of the day, while 44 per cent said they felt “exhausted” in the mornings just at the thought of starting another day.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey warned: “The danger now is that increased workloads, and the stress and burnout risk that go with them, may become permanent.”

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