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Workplace stress affects nearly 90% of primary care staff

Almost 90% of primary care staff, including practice nurses and GPs, find their work stressful according to new research by Mind

Almost 90% of primary care staff, including practice nurses and GPs, cited work as their number one cause of stress according to new research by Mind.

The mental health charity surveyed over 1000 NHS workers in primary care and found that work is currently the most stressful area of their lives, ahead of finances, health, family life and relationships.

Two in five respondents said that workplace stress had led them to resigning or considering resigning from their jobs. One in five said they had developed a mental health problem and 8% said it had led to suicidal thoughts.
The poll also found that stress had an impact on their physical health, with 80% saying it had led to sleep problems and over half felt stress had directly impacted their physical health.

Kathryn Yates, professional lead for primary and community care at the Royal College of Nursing, said it is not surprising that many [primary care staff] are experiencing stress, and they must be given more support.
‘Much of these pressures are caused by chronic understaffing, but as these findings show they can also force many staff to leave, creating a negative cycle which leaves both patients and staff let down by the health service.’

She placed the onus on healthcare providers to ensure ‘that they are looking after their staff. It is essential that staff feel able to seek support especially in times of stress and uncertainty.’

One of the biggest problems identified by respondents was telling colleagues about their stress levels for fear of seeming incapable or of harming their chances of promotion.

Another concern raised by the results of the poll is that primary care workers are now resorting to alcohol (42%) and smoking (8%) to cope with workplace pressures.

Maureen Baker, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that NHS England’s GP Forward View is a ‘lifeline’ for general practice, and the funding to help eliminate burnout will ‘go
a long way to alleviating the current pressures’ and improve patient care.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said that these figures paint a ‘worrying picture’, suggesting that levels of stress among primary care staff are having a real impact on both their mental and physical wellbeing.
‘We need to make sure that healthcare professionals are well and supported, so they can provide the best care for their patients,’ he said.

‘Working in primary care doesn’t, however, make it any easier to find the words to talk about your mental health at work. It needs to be OK for primary care staff to talk about it. Like anyone else, they need and deserve support.’