Reports Show Burnt Out Doctors Susceptible to Distressing Regulatory Processes

Australian Medical Association

GPs report burnout and stress in the workplace, while the medical regulator’s internal study shows deeply concerning impacts arising from the current regulatory approach.

Two new reports reveal the pressures doctors are facing from multiple fronts. A report from the UK Health Foundation shows Australian GPs are feeling the effects of burnout and stress in the workplace. Separately, a report from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) confirmed the traumatic effect of regulatory processes on doctors and the need for changes in this area.

The UK Health Foundation report found only 8 per cent of Australian GPs say they enjoy their work and do not have any symptoms of burnout, and more than half of Australia’s GPs surveyed said their job was extremely/very stressful.

Australian Medical Association President Professor Steve Robson said the crisis facing general practice was reflected in the results of the UK Health Foundation report: Stressed and Overworked and if something is not done Australia could face a further exodus of GPs.

Less than half of Australia’s GPs are ‘extremely’ or ‘very satisfied’ with practising medicine, with this number having fallen from over 60 per cent in 2019.

“While this report is very much focused on the impact of the survey results for UK GPs, it provides further evidence of just how difficult things are for our GPs,” Professor Robson said.

“It’s clear Australia’s GPs are facing increased burnout from the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, growing patient demand, and increasing financial and sustainability issues. This will only get worse if action isn’t taken.”

Meanwhile, new data released by Ahpra last week to media outlets and seen by the Australian Medical Association has confirmed the terrible impact current regulatory processes are having on doctors and the need for a change in approach.

Professor Steve Robson said the information released by Ahpra was confronting but should be a wakeup call for health ministers.

The Ahpra study looked at the distress in health practitioners involved in a regulatory process, identifying 16 deaths and four instances of attempted suicide or self-harm among practitioners who were subject to regulatory notifications within a four-year study period from January 2018 to December 2021.

“The AMA has consistently raised the impact the regulatory process has on a doctor’s health and wellbeing,” Professor Robson said.

“This information should send a strong message to health ministers that they can no longer ignore the AMA’s calls for better support for doctors including an explicit exemption from mandatory reporting for treating doctors.”

Professor Robson told 2GB radio the current system must change.

“We have a situation where patients can bring complaints against doctors that have to be investigated by the regulator. The investigations can be complicated, take years and (are) unbelievably stressful and it affects the way patients are cared for as well”.

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