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Patient care severely compromised by doctor burnout, study suggests

High workload and performance culture are contributing to the exhaustion, the authors said.

Burnout among doctors is jeopardising patient care, researchers have warned.

Physicians who are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted are twice as likely to make mistakes such as incorrect diagnoses or prescriptions, according to a study published in journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

They are also twice as likely to deliver “suboptimal” care due to low professionalism and three times more likely to receive poor satisfaction ratings from patients, it found.

The researchers, who analysed 47 studies involving almost 43,000 international physicians, found the link between burnout and lower professionalism was “particularly strong” among junior doctors.

Dr Maria Panagioti from the University of Manchester, who led the study, said: “We show conclusively that the provision of safe, high-quality patient care is severely compromised when doctors are physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted.

“Clearly, this is not the fault of doctors.”

A sick workforce cannot provide good patient care Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, Keele University

High workload, a lack of measures to improve wellbeing and a “performance culture” in the medical profession are among the factors contributing to burnout, according to Dr Maria Panagioti, with doctors often required to be “superhuman”.

She urged the NHS to “urgently rethink the environment in which doctors are often forced to work”.

“NHS bodies need to look at workload, improved team working and making time to meet with other doctors,” she added.

Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, from Keele University, said: “As a GP, I am well aware of the impact of stress in clinicians on the individual and their colleagues.

“This study provides evidence that physician burnout potentially jeopardises patient care and patient safety.

“This reinforces the need for policy-makers to ensure that healthcare systems support clinicians, and that clinicians recognise symptoms of burnout in themselves and others, and either seek or offer help and support.

“A sick workforce cannot provide good patient care.”

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