Primary care workers find work more stressful than finances or family life

Almost nine in 10 (88%) primary care workers find their work stressful, significantly higher than the 56% of the wider UK workforce who say the same, a poll by mental health charity Mind has concluded.

The poll of more than 1,000 NHS workers in primary care, including GPs, practice nurses, practice managers and their colleagues, showed that work was currently the most stressful area of their lives, ahead of their finances, health, family life and relationships.

The psychological impact of workplace stress on primary care workers was significant, the charity argued, with two in five (43%) saying workplace stress had resulted in them resigning or considering resigning from their jobs.

One in five (21%) say it led them to develop a mental health problem, and almost one in 10 (8%) felt workplace stress had caused suicidal thoughts. One in six (17%) said stress had led to them taking medication for a mental health problem.

As well as the impact on mental health, the poll also found stress had a significant impact on workers’ physical health, with eight in 10 (83%) saying it affected their ability to sleep, and more than half (54%) saying it directly affected their physical health. Workplace stress also resulted in one in six (17%) calling in sick to avoid work.

Primary care workers were also resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the stress of work, with two in five (42%) drinking alcohol at least once a week and, despite the known harm it causes, almost one in 10 (8%) smoking every day.

One of the biggest problems appeared to be a fear of disclosing stress levels in the workplace.

One in three (31%) said doing so would lead to them being perceived as less capable than their colleagues. Two in five (22%) also felt disclosing would count against them when they were considered for promotion.

Separately, the latest figures released by NHS Digital have suggested that NHS staff sickness absence across the board increased in April, to 4.01%, compared with the 3.99% reported in April 2015, according to NHS Employers.

The lowest sickness-rate groups for April 2016 were nursing, midwifery and health visiting learners, at 0.87%. The highest groups were healthcare assistants and other support staff, at 6.09%.

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