Stress 'means half of GPs suffer from burnout' with male doctors worse off than female medics

46% of doctors are emotionally exhausted

One if four were depersonalised with patients

Concern: A high number of doctors are now stressed

Concern: A high number of doctors are now stressed

Almost half of family doctors are suffering from burnout because of stress, say researchers.

Male GPs seem to be at significantly greater risk of burnout than women doctors, according to the study published yesterday.

Those who work in group practices and those who repeatedly see the same patients also seem to have a higher risk of burnout.

In the largest study of its kind ever conducted in Britain, 564 out of 789 eligible GPs working in Essex were assessed using a validated measure, the Maslach Burnout Inventory.

The questionnaire assesses burnout by measuring emotional exhaustion; ‘depersonalisation’, expressed as negativity and cynicism; and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.

Dr Peter Orton, of Aviation Medica, said: 'The finding could be the result of group practice creating extra demands on practitioners while raising the possibility of interpersonal tensions and conflicts.

'Regardless of cause, these findings are worrying as group practices are increasing in size and number.'

He said depersonalised doctors were also significantly more likely to repeatedly see the same patients.

However, burnout did not seem to interfere with doctors’ professionalism, according to the study published in the journal BMJ Open.

Exhausted: Female GPs also struggling yet are more attentive with patients

Exhausted: Female GPs also struggling yet are more attentive with patients

The results showed that almost half of the respondents (46 per cent) fitted the criteria for emotional exhaustion, while more than four out of 10 (42 per cent) were depersonalised.

A further third (34 per cent) felt they were not achieving a great deal.

A high score for one of the components was linked to high scores in the other two.

Male doctors were significantly more likely to be depersonalised than women doctors, as were those who had been qualified under 20 years ago compared with those who had been qualified for longer.

The researchers suggest that the gender differences may be explained by a larger number of women doctors working part-time or that women doctors are more patient centred than their male colleagues, which may boost professional satisfaction.

Commenting on the findings a BMA spokesperson said: 'Doctors have very stressful jobs and support systems should be in place to help them deal with the demands of their profession.

'If these demands become so overwhelming and put a doctor’s health at risk, they have a professional duty to seek help so that patient care is not affected.'