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GPs in group practices ‘at higher risk of burnout’


1 February 2012

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GPs who work in group practices and repeatedly see the same patients are at an increased risk of burnout.

A study of over 550 GPs working in the Essex area were assessed for ‘burnout’ using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) measure.

Almost one in two GPs responding to the study were found to be ’emotionally exhausted’, 42% were ‘depersonalised’ and a third of respondents felt ‘they were not achieving a great deal’.


GPs who work in group practices and repeatedly see the same patients are at an increased risk of burnout.

A study of over 550 GPs working in the Essex area were assessed for ‘burnout’ using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) measure.

Almost one in two GPs responding to the study were found to be ’emotionally exhausted’, 42% were ‘depersonalised’ and a third of respondents felt ‘they were not achieving a great deal’.

The study’s findings led to a warning that “a significant group of doctors is in trouble”.

Male GPs and recently-qualified GPs (under 20 years) were “significantly” more likely to be depersonalised than female GPs and those GPs who qualified more than 20 years ago respectively.

“This gender difference can be explained by female GPs getting more professional satisfaction out of giving a higher level of patient-centred care than male GPs”, says the researchers.

Depersonalised doctors were also found to be “significantly” more likely to work in group practices, rather than as single-handers – a finding the researchers deemed “disappointing”.

“Group practice could be creating extra demands on practitioners while raising the possibility of interpersonal tensions and conflicts,” says the study’s authors.

“Regardless of cause, these findings are worrying as group practices are increasing in size and numbers.”

A survey of almost 1900 patients suggests the high levels of burnout among Essex GPs have “no detrimental impact on their interpersonal skills or patient centredness”.


Do you agree with the study’s authors that female GPs offer more patient-centred care? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“No. There are several other possible sources of difference that have not been considered” – Tony Kelpie, Southampton

“This is surely a joke? – who can the opinion survey collectors jump to such an outragious conclusion unless they measured the patient centredness or otherwise of the different GPs actual consultations – filling in questionnaires that measure feminine qualities is one thing – hopefully more of the women score higher on female attributes than the men! but to then conclude that’s why the don’t get burn out misses the whole point and detracts from main message of survey’s results – is that struggling, disatisfied GPs hide out in group practices – but good news is they all seem to jack it in before they get into their 50’s. Should possibly have stuck to hospital their medicine career’s rather than jumping ship into GP land? Good job these chaps haven’t been appointed as single handers. I wonder if there’s any link with who does the ironing at home – I bet fewer of the burnt out GPs do the ironing in their homes? And wonder if you are part-time with another career at home you are a happier GP? So there’s the answer for burn out – go part time and help out at home – or be a single hander like me – at least that way you can have a sense of humour at laugh at what some people call “research” or in the words of some great thinker to these opinion surveys “inventing the bleeding obvious”” – Nigel Dickson, Southampton

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