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GP leader urges doctors to audit their time this Mental Health Awareness Week

Doctors and other clinicians should carry out an audit of their time to address burnout in primary care, a leading GP has said. 

Jay Verma
Dr Jay Verma

Today, at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May 2024), Dr Jay Verma, GP partner and President of the General Practice with Primary Care Section at the Royal Society of Medicine, said: 

“This mental health awareness week, we need to address the biggest risk when it comes to our mental health – burnout.   

“Survey after survey shows that no part of the health service is immune and data from NHS sickness absence for just two months of 2023 showed 26 per cent of recorded absence days were due to mental health problems. 

“In General Practice we are small teams at the front door of the NHS and as much as it’s easy to say things like ‘make sure you take holidays’ or ‘go for a walk in your lunch hour’ they feel a little prosaic. You know these already and if you had the time, you’d be doing them.  And how many of us have sat at the end of a holiday worrying about the work piling up? Or not taken a sick day when we are unwell because there's too much to be done?  

“That's the bit we need to address if we are going to really confront some of the issues leading to poor mental health.  

“This week is an opportunity to be strategic, not tactical, about our mental health by addressing the longer term goals – how we can make General Practice sustainable for everyone in it? 

“In order to provide the best patient care and ensure we and our staff don’t burn out, we need to operate as any other business would.  

“As part of my mission to make Primary Care more sustainable I tracked the workload of some GP partners to quantify the goodwill. What we found was that a typical GP works 172 per cent of an average working week. I do not believe these statistics will be an outlier but will be common across the profession.  

“So this mental health awareness week, do yourself the kindness of an audit of your time.  

“How much time do you spend on patients? How many of those were suitable appointments? What about meetings, admin, clinical correspondence? 

“And this shouldn’t just be for the GPs. What about your admin teams and other clinical staff members? How is their time being spent and how are they feeling?  

“Once this essential piece of work is done you can, as a team, look at ways of making our working days more efficient and therefore reducing the risk of burnout and pressures on our mental health.  

“Don’t say you don’t have time – quite frankly, we cannot afford not to. It’s a case of making the time in the short term in order to have a sustainable, better quality of life and a better, happier, healthier workforce in the long run.”   

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