SELF MEDICATING Stressed doctors admit to boozing and taking drugs ‘to cope with strain’

DOCTORS NEWS

ONE in seven GPs has turned to drugs or booze to deal with work stress, figures reveal.

Many admit drinking and taking sleeping pills in a struggle to cope with pressure and red tape.

Almost half warn that job stresses have hit the way they care for patients, according to new research. One said their only reaction to a suicidal patient was “resentment”.

Ten per cent of family doctors said they have taken time off work in the past year because of stress or burnout.

And 22 per cent fear they will need a break next year due to unbearable workloads.

The findings come from a survey of more than 800 GPs by Pulse magazine.

The poll shows 11 per cent drink due to work stress and six per cent take legal drugs.

One GP, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I drink a bottle of wine most evenings after work, and often take codeine to help me sleep. I’m also on long-term antidepressants, as are a lot of my colleagues.”

Another said: “I was drinking to excess in the evenings and this caused a marriage breakdown.”

Family medics blamed overwork for leaving them with “compassion fatigue” and “getting irritated with patients when it is not their fault”.

Exeter GP Dr Kate Dick said: “Sheer volume of work is making me less sympathetic.” GP workload has increased by 16 per cent since 2007, according to an Oxford University study.

Professor Clare Gerada, former chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the findings were “worrying”.
She said: “One in ten doctors go home and use alcohol to relax, that’s high.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “We fully understand GPs are on the front line when it comes to dealing with rising patient demand.

“This is why we have launched a world-first, nationally funded service to support GPs and GP trainees suffering mental ill health and addiction, while implementing measures to boost the wider primary care workforce and reduce individual GP workload.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “These are incredibly tough times for GPs throughout the UK.

“Our workload is increasing and becoming ever more complex, and we know that many GPs are putting their own health and wellbeing at risk – and burning out in some cases.

“Fit and healthy GPs are good for patients, but we are trying to do more and more on less and less, and there is a limit beyond which we can no longer guarantee that we are practising safely for our patients.”

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