Almost nine in ten (88 percent) primary care workers find their work life stressful, which is significantly higher than the wider UK workforce (56 percent), research undertaken by UK charity MIND has found.
The survey, involving more than 1,000 NHS workers in primary care, including GPs, practice nurses, practice managers and their colleagues, also revealed that work is considered the most stressful area of their lives, ahead of their finances, health, family life and relationships.
Two in five (43 percent) said workplace stress had either caused them to resign or think about resigning, while 21 percent reported having developed a mental health problem as a result and, in 8 percent of cases, even led to suicidal thoughts. Also of note, 17 percent said stress led to them taking medication for a mental health problem.
On the physical side, 83 percent said workplace stress affects their ability to sleep and more than (54 percent) impacts directly on their health, and caused one in six to call in sick to avoid work.
Compounding the problem, healthcare staff feel unable to share that they are experiencing high levels of stress at work; 31 percent thought that disclosing this would lead to them being perceived as less capable than their colleagues, while 22 percent said it might count against them when being considered for a promotion.
"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," said Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind. "We need to make sure that health care professionals are well and supported, so they can provide the best care for their patients".
Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee, said the poll reinforces his organisation's own finding "that GPs and their staff are under unsustainable pressure because they are having to work long, intense hours on dwindling resources against a backdrop of rocketing patient demand. As this Mind survey demonstrates, the inevitable side effect is rising levels of burnout and stress".
"Many GPs are considering cutting their working hours and one in three told a recent BMA survey they were considering retiring in the next five years. This is not only distressing for the individuals involved, but will seriously limit the capacity of the NHS to deliver quality care to patients".
"The current state of general practice is pushing GPs to their limit, and these results show it is having a serious impact on their physical and mental health. It goes without saying that a service that relies on sick and fatigued GPs is not good for patient safety," added Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners.
But she also stressed that NHS England's GP Forward View "is a lifeline for general practice, and the pledges - including £16m to support GPs suffering from burnout and stress - will go a long way to alleviating the current pressures facing GPs, and in turn improve patient care".