Three out of four GPs suffer from high stress, survey reveals

New review shows high level of demoralisation and risk of burnout among doctors

Three out of four family doctors suffer from high stress, according to a new survey. File photograph: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire

Three out of four family doctors suffer from high stress, according to a new survey. File photograph: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire


Stressed, depressed and often unable to take a break, even for a short period – a new survey reveals the extent of disillusionment and demoralisation among Irish GPs

Three out of four family doctors said they suffered from high stress and almost half reported poor or very poor morale, according to the survey by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP).

Three-quarters of those responding said morale had worsened over the past five years.

The impact of manpower shortages on general practice is evident in a finding that more than half of GPs who tried to recruit a sessional doctor or assistant in the past year were unable to do so.

Locum recruitment

Rural GPs were least successful at recruiting cover, the survey found.

The ICGP, which holds its winter meeting in Athlone today, said it had been warning of manpower shortages and risks to the viability of the profession for years as large numbers of trainees and graduates are attracted to better conditions abroad.

After a year of often bruising interactions between the Government and the profession, the survey finds 90 per cent of doctors feel communication between the Government and GPs has failed both doctors and patients.

ICGP medical director Dr Margaret O’Riordan said the survey showed for the first time the extent of falling morale among members caused by worsening underinvestment in general practice.

Professional burnout

“The high prevalence of these risk factors among Irish GPs would suggest that this is a high probability for many,” she said.

Promoting job satisfaction and morale, in addition to addressing issues such as administrative demands, would help to retain the current workforce, she said.

Most of the 815 GPs who responded to the survey felt free GP care to under-sixes and over-70s would impact on waiting times for patients, though one-third said free care for over-70s would result in improved monitoring of patients’ health needs.

Although the Government has placed great emphasis on the development of primary care, only 13 per cent of GPs felt they were working in a well- functioning primary care team, and less than a quarter indicated a preference for co-locating with a primary care team.