GPs most likely to “pay the price” for burnout, GMC warns

GPs are the most likely to be at a high risk of burnout compared to other doctors, with around a third (32%) of GPs operating at this level, the GMC warned.

The proportion of GPs ‘struggling with the workload’ – meaning they worked beyond scheduled hours and felt unable to cope with the workload on a weekly basis – more than doubled in 2005. 2021 vs. 2020, the GMC’s Annual State of Medical Education and Practice (SOMEP) report says.

Meanwhile, one in five general practitioners say they have difficulty providing sufficient patient care on a daily basis, and another in five say they feel it every week.

The GMC said there “has to be a new mindset in the way health care teams work together” or more general practitioners will leave the workforce.

More than half of the 895 general practitioners (54%) who responded to its survey struggle with a weekly workload, compared to 26% in 2020.

The GMC said GP workload had reached the “worrying proportions” of 2019 and GPs “were again reporting much greater pressure than any other group.”

In comparison, 18% of specialists struggle every week, with 11% of doctors in training and 7% of general practitioners, specialists and associates and doctors employed locally.

GMC Managing Director Charlie Massey said: “There is a close relationship between burnout, workload and support levels, and GPs are hit hard by these pressures. most often reported difficulty providing patients with an adequate standard of care, and they are the most likely to be at high risk of burnout.

“There is a real danger that the exhaustion and dissatisfaction of general practitioners will lead to more exits from the labor market, putting even more pressure on those who remain. There needs to be a new mindset in the way healthcare teams work together, and GPs need to play a crucial role in this thinking. ‘

BMA’s GP committee chairman Dr Farah Jameel said the results of about one in five GPs who find it difficult to provide sufficient care on a daily basis were “worrying”.

She said: “This data should sound alarm bells for policymakers and the government – not only on the current level of overwork among GPs and their teams, but also on the impact this is having on patients. and the safety of the care they can access.

“He underlines what the profession has been saying for several years; that GPs and their teams have worked harder than ever and have done everything possible to care for patients throughout the pandemic.

She added: “Working at this level of intensity is unsustainable and dangerous. And while general practitioners were the group most likely to be at high risk for burnout, they were less likely to be absent for cause. of stress than the national average, which means they were likely to have much, much worse problems.

Dr Naeem Nazem, MDDUS medical division chief, said: “The regulator’s report paints an extremely worrying picture of the massive and relentless toll the pandemic took to doctors in 2021.”

He added: “We know, thanks to the support our members have given us this year, that 2021 has been a more difficult and much more relentless year for physicians, especially general practitioners.

“Burnout and physicians who choose to leave the profession to protect their own mental health are unfortunately nothing new. But it is clear that the pandemic has once again made matters worse.

“If these double crises facing physicians are not addressed, we risk an increase in the number of physicians practicing defensively, which is not in the best interests of patients, health services and the medical profession. -same.”

The GMC’s SOMEP 2020 report found that the vast majority of GPs have said Covid-19 has hampered the patient care they are able to provide.

And a GMC survey of physicians leaving the profession found that more than four in ten general practitioners who left the NHS did so because of burnout.

The report also found:


  • Only half of general practitioners who responded to the 2021 survey said they felt supported by senior medical staff. This is a decrease from 61% in 2020.
  • GPs continue to feel supported by their immediate colleagues, with 82% agreeing they did so in 2021 and 86% in 2020, and non-clinical management, but to a lesser extent.
  • In 2021, 62% of general practitioners felt supported by non-clinical care, compared to 70% in 2020.
  • Almost all trainers of general practitioners (96%) felt that their work environment was fully favorable.


  • In the 2020 survey, satisfaction levels were fairly constant. But this year, the satisfaction of specialists and in particular general practitioners has again fallen sharply and is now approaching the level of 2019, where 50% say they are generally satisfied with their daily work.
  • As with the workload and the risk of burnout, it is general practitioners who most often report difficulties in providing patients with a sufficient level of care.


  • 47% of GPs responding to the 2021 survey said they were likely to reduce their contractual hours over the next year.
  • On average, general practitioners described the workload on three quarters (76%) of their days as “high intensity”, a much higher proportion than specialists (55% of days), trainees (52% days) and SAS and LE physicians (57% of days).
  • Although they are more at risk of burnout, fewer GPs have taken time off (9%), suggesting that they may “feel less able to take this step.”
  • Six in ten physicians (59%) worked beyond scheduled hours at least once a week.
  • “A high number of patients and long waiting lists” was the main concern of general practitioners (21%).

Diversity and inclusion

  • Physicians with disabilities were almost twice as likely as their non-disabled counterparts to be dissatisfied, at increased risk of burnout, struggling with workload and taking “hard steps” to leave the profession
  • Doctors of Black Ethnic Minority (BME) descent, especially British Asian / Asian doctors, are less likely to feel supported by their close colleagues or to be part of a support team.

Source: GMC

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