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GP self-reported stress on the rise

13 Apr 2016


Prof Tom O’Dowd

Contact with increasingly stressed patients could be the reason the percentage of GPs reporting high stress levels has swelled significantly and their morale is at its lowest level in 33 years, IMT reports.

The high stress and poor morale in the doctors is, according to the ‘Structure of General Practice in Ireland: 1982-2015’ report, reflected in daily contact with patients, especially in hardened economic times.

There has been a substantial increase overall in the perceived high levels of stress among GPs, from 12 per cent in 2005 to 58 per cent in 2015, while the percentage reporting their morale as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ was just 35 per cent in 2015, compared with 62 cent in 2005 and 57 per cent in 1997, the TCD/ICGP report shows.

Stress and morale data in 2015 and 2005 were compared with a survey conducted by the Department of Public Health and Primary Care in Trinity and published by the ICGP in 1997.

Of the 465 respondents who answered this question, 11 per cent had stress levels classified as ‘low’ or ‘very low’, which compares with 42 per cent in 2005.

Thirty-two per cent reported ‘average’ levels of stress, while 58 per cent described their stress as ‘high’ or ‘very high’, compared with just 13 per cent in 2005 and 35 per cent in 1997.

In 1997, only 14 per cent of GPs felt their stress level was low or very low and 50 per cent felt it was average.

There has also been a corresponding increase in poor morale, up from 12 per cent to 33 per cent.

According to TCD’s Prof Tom O’Dowd: “For all the talk about it, GPs do enjoy their job. It is stressful and morale has fallen, but actually 46 per cent of the GPs once they get to 65 years of age want to stay on, compared with 16 per cent in 2005. Now that’s very different than most of the professional jobs that I know. And I am one of them.

“Now that’s a good thing clearly for workforce planning, but it may be that the reasons behind it could also be because of financial insecurity, as much as anything else. But it does help that they actually enjoy what they are doing.”

Of the 465 respondents, 33 per cent of females and 55 per cent of males plan to continue working in general practice beyond the age of 65 years.

Just 21 per cent believe they will retire from clinical general practice before the age of 65, compared with a figure of 43 per cent in 2005.

lloyd.mudiwa@imt.ie

Lloyd Mudiwa

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times