Reports have found GPs in the UK are under “extreme strain” and have some of the highest stress levels in the world compared with other doctors.

The study, by the Health Foundation charity, found UK GPs also had the lowest job satisfaction compared with those working in France, Germany, the US, Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand.

Just a decade earlier UK GPs were among the most satisfied of any country.

The study analysed data from an international survey of 9,526 GPs in 10 high-income countries, including 1,010 in the UK.

The full breakdown of the survey

It found most GPs in all countries were dealing with higher workloads than before the Covid pandemic, and “many have experienced greater stress and signs of emotional distress”.

But GPs in the UK reported higher levels of emotional distress and bigger rises in workload compared to their counterparts in nearly all other countries, with many considering leaving the profession altogether.

Around 71% of UK GPs said they found their job “extremely” or “very” stressful, up from 60% in 2019 and the highest of the 10 countries surveyed.

The data also found that GPs in the UK are among the least satisfied with practising medicine, with just 24% of UK GPs “extremely” or “very” satisfied.

They are also among the least satisfied with their work-life balance, workload, and time spent with patients.

They believe patient care has suffered since the pandemic, with half believing the quality of care they can provide has worsened and only 14% thinking it has improved.

The National: UK GPs are stressed and burnt out according to a Health Foundation survey.UK GPs are stressed and burnt out according to a Health Foundation survey. (Image: PA)

Compared with their male peers, female GPs in the UK were more likely to report they are “definitely burning out” (34% versus 23%), experiencing emotional distress (70% versus 54%) and finding their job extremely or very stressful (78% versus 62%).

Across all 10 countries, more female GPs reported experiencing emotional distress than male GPs.

However, the study did find that GPs in the UK are more confident in managing end-of-life care (96%) and dementia (95%) than in most other countries.

"The experience of GPs in the UK should ring alarm bells" says Health Foundation

Director of policy at the Health Foundation, Hugh Alderwick, said: “The NHS is not the only health system under pressure, but the experience of GPs in the UK should ring alarm bells for government.

“General practice is the foundation of the NHS, yet GPs are telling us loud and clear that these foundations are creaking.

“The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on UK GPs, combined with longer-run challenges including staff gaps and rising workload.

“GPs are stressed out and burnt out – and many are considering leaving their jobs.

“Decisive policy action is needed to improve the working lives of GPs – including to boost GP capacity, reduce workload and make use of wider primary care staff.

“The Government has promised that its much-delayed workforce plan for the NHS will be published shortly, but the promise of new doctors will be little good if the NHS cannot retain the ones it already has.”

The National: GPs are stressed and burnt out says the Health FoundationGPs are stressed and burnt out says the Health Foundation (Image: PA)

Royal College of GPs Chairwoman, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, added: “The College has long warned that without urgent action, general practice in the UK will become unsustainable – and this report reveals just what a sorry state of affairs we are facing, especially when compared with other high-income countries.

“It is alarming, but not at all surprising, that GPs in the UK are among the most stressed and over-stretched of the nations examined.

“This chimes with college research that has shown that two-thirds of GPs feel so over-stretched that they cannot guarantee safe patient care, and many cite workload and burnout as a reason they are considering leaving the profession.

“GPs and our teams want to deliver safe, appropriate and timely care for our patients, but with the intense workload and workforce pressures we are working under, this is becoming ever more difficult."

Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said they were aware of the pressures facing GPs and were working on ways to ease it.

The spokesperson said: “The number of doctors in general practice rose by over 400 in 2022 and is more than 2,000 higher than 2019 with record numbers in training.

“We are aware of the pressures facing GPs and we have recruited over 25,000 additional members of staff including pharmacists, physiotherapists, and paramedics, who are providing care directly to patients or supporting doctors and nurses to do so.

“We will announce further support soon with our primary care recovery plan and, as mentioned in the Budget, our long term workforce plans.”

This survey comes following a range of strikes across the NHS in 2022/23.