Nearly 9 out of 10 GP partners are at high or very high risk of burnout, according to a British Medical Association (BMA) report on mental health in the sector.

The report, Caring for the Mental Health of the Medical Workforce, found that GPs were the second most likely group of respondents in the survey of 4300 doctors and medical students with a “high” or “very high” risk of burnout, after junior doctors.

Overall, 80% of all doctors were at “high” or “very high” risk. The report said that burnout was largely driven by exhaustion rather than disengagement from the job.

Key findings included 90% of respondents stating that their current working, training or studying environment had contributed to their condition either to a significant or partial extent. In primary care, half of GPs said they or their practice had sought help or support for a condition affecting their work or training.

While 27% of respondents reported being diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point, 7% said they were diagnosed in the past year, and 40% of respondents reported currently suffering from a broader range of psychological and emotional conditions.

Rates were highest among the youngest respondents, and sessional GPs, SAS doctors and junior doctors were particularly affected.

Doctors working the longest weekly hours, of 51 or more hours a week, were most likely to say they were currently suffering.

The report found that, while the majority of respondents said they did not use alcohol, drugs, self-medication or prescribing as a way to cope with a mental health condition, one in three said they used it regularly or occasionally.

BMA President and Kings College London Professor of Mental Health Professor Dinesh Bhugra said: “While there is no denying that being a doctor is a challenging and demanding role, too often the line of what can be considered routine pressures of the job has most definitely been crossed and the consequence is a workforce that has been pushed to literal breaking point.”

He said that, as well as focusing on addressing the immediate pressures which are negatively impacting doctors, a wider cultural shift was needed to address the stigma that currently inhibits doctors getting help.

The BMA said it has commissioned new qualitative research with participants from the survey to better understand their needs, with the findings due to be published in the summer.

Last reviewed 30 April 2019