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Three GPs a day are seeking help for ‘meltdowns’

  • Some 981 referred themselves to the GP Health Service in 10 months 
  • GPs are making themselves ill by covering the workloads of unfilled positions
  • Other reasons include the stress of complaints or their own mental health issues
  • Experts worry stressed GPs may hinder the health and safety of their patients 
  • Research from last year found nearly 12% of GP positions are vacant in the UK 

Three GPs a day are seeking help for ‘meltdowns’ as they struggle to take on the workloads of growing doctor vacancies.

Some 981 GPs referred themselves to the GP Health Service, which was set up to help doctors suffering from stress or burnout, between the end of November and the service’s launch on January 30 2017.

‘Practice meltdown’ is the most common reason for self-referral, according to the service’s chief executive Lucy Warner.

GPs are making themselves ill by being too eager to take on the workloads of unfilled positions, causing them to buckle under the pressure, General Practitioners Committee chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said, describing the situation as a ‘baptism of fire’.

Research carried out last year revealed nearly 12 per cent of GP positions are vacant in the UK, up from 6.4 per cent in 2014.  

Three GPs a day are seeking help for ‘meltdowns’ as they struggle to cope with their workloads


Patients may one day be diagnosed by computers, not doctors, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said last September.

Artificial intelligence could help in diagnosing patients by analysing X-rays and samples to determine conditions such as cancer, according to NHS England bosses. 

Mr Hunt said: ‘So what might medicine look like when the NHS is 80 [in 2028]? Well, the first thing is we may well not be going to doctors for a diagnosis, we might be going to computers instead’. 

In as little as a decade’s time, patients may even be diagnosed with disorders before they develop symptoms as DNA screening is set to become accessible to the masses, he added.

The future will also see patients being able to declare their wishes about sensitive subjects such as organ donation and end-of-life care through apps, Mr Hunt added. 

Doctors should look after themselves to look after their patients’

According to Dr Vautrey, newly-qualified GPs are being put in situations experienced doctors would struggle to cope with.

He added the use of the GP Health Service highlights the need to address workload pressures so doctors can practice safely without putting themselves or their patients at risk.

Ms Warner told GP Online: ‘Ultimately, our advice to doctors would be to look after themselves in order to be able to look after their patients. 

‘If doctors cared for themselves and their colleagues and followed the same advice they would give to their patients they would seek help sooner. 

‘Doctors make excellent patients and excellent recoveries with the right support.’

Younger GPs are needing help  

Other reasons GPs are seeking help include receiving official complaints or discovering they have made a mistake as result of their own mental health problems.

Younger GPs are also requiring assistance as they generally struggle to cope with the workloads and pressures of the job.