One in five primary care workers have said their work has caused a mental health problem, according to a leading charity.
Research released by Mind has found that 21% of over 1,000 practice nurses, GPs, practice managers and other primary care workers have had a mental health problem because of work related stress.
The research also found that, while, 17% have taken medication for a mental illness, 8% said that workplace stress led to suicidal thoughts.
On the whole, 88% of primary care workers find their work stressful, with 43% saying they resigned as a result or have considered doing so.
For comparison, 56% of the wider UK workforce finds their job as stressful.
As well as the impact on mental health, the poll also found that stress had a significant impact on workers’ physical health,
More than eight in ten primary care workers said the affects their ability to sleep and 54% said it impacts directly on their physical health.
Workplace stress led to 17% calling in sick to avoid work.
Primary care workers also said they were resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the stress of work.
Two in five said they drink alcohol at least once a week to cope with workplace pressure and, despite the known harm it causes, almost one in ten smoke everyday.
But one of the biggest problems facing primary care staff appears to be a fear of disclosing their stress levels in the workplace, with 31% feeling that if they say they are overly stressed, they would be perceived as less capable than other colleagues.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association GP committee chair, said:“This poll reinforces the BMA findings that GPs and their staff are under unsustainable pressure because they are having to work long, intense hours on dwindling resources against a backdrop of rocketing patient demand.
Nagpaul added that the findings are not only distressing for NHS workers, “but will seriously limit the capacity of the NHS to deliver quality care to patients.”
He said that although the government has announced a new service for GPs suffering from stress, more need to be done “to ensure all parts of the primary care workforce have access to appropriate support.”
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said GPs are being pushed “to their limit” by the current state of general practice, raising concerns for patient safety.
She said: “NHS England’s GP Forward View is a lifeline for general practice, and the pledges – including £16m to support GPs suffering from burnout and stress – will go a long way to alleviating the current pressures facing GPs, and in turn improve patient care.”