Overworked and overstressed: are we turning our doctors into patients?

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Are we turning our doctors into patients? Are they too overworked and, more importantly, over burdened at a time when politicians are gearing up to negotiate compulsory weekend work for consultants, despite entrenched opposition from the majority of those in the medical profession?

Recent reports indicate that 80% of senior hospital doctors are seriously considering taking early retirement as a result of increased stress and workload. In fact, 74% of GPs say their workload in ‘unmanageable’ and report feeling increasingly vulnerable to burnout and depression. The job of GP is only getting tougher, with increased accountability and an unenviable remit of responsibilities, from clinical demands to juggling surgery finances to managing employees. Taking on so much responsibility is pushing our doctors closer to the edge, with very few able to articulate the problems they face.

It comes down to character and doctors are skilled at hiding their feelings behind a professional veneer. For instance, before they take on the excessive demands as a practitioner, they first have to go through the rigors of medical school, which conditions certain behaviours, including perfectionism (can doctors afford to be wrong?) and psychological strategies that help defend doctors from the pain and anxiety they come across on a daily basis.

However there is a breaking point and it seems like we are converging on that point with the introduction of a seven day week for the NHS, which is not only going to affect the workloads of may but also cost hospitals an estimated 1.5% to 2% of their budgets.

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