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A national study of burnout and spiritual health in UK general practitioners during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Orla Whitehead, Professor Suzanne Moffatt, Emerita Professor Carol Jagger, Professor Barbara Hanratty



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2022 Whitehead et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.Objectives To quantify the burnout and spiritual health of general practitioners (GPs) in the United Kingdom (UK) who worked during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Design Online survey, April/May 2021, distributed via emails to general practices, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), Health boards, Clinical Research Networks, professional groups, social media GP groups and networks. Setting United Kingdom. Participants 1318 GPs who had worked in the National Health Service (NHS) during the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020 –May 2021). Main outcome measures Burnout scores, measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) for Medical Personnel; spiritual health, measured using the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy—Spiritual Well-Being, Non-Illness (FACIT-SP-NI). Results 19% of surveyed GPs were at the highest risk for burnout, using accepted MBI ‘cut off’ levels. There was no evidence of a difference in burnout by gender, ethnicity, or length of service. GP burnout was associated with GP spiritual health, regardless of identification with a religion. GPs with low spiritual health were five times more likely to be in the highest risk group for burnout. Conclusions Burnout is at crisis levels amongst GPs in the UK NHS. A comprehensive response is required, identifying protective and precipitating factors for burnout. The potentially protective impact of spiritual health merits further investigation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whitehead IO, Moffatt S, Jagger C, Hanratty B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS ONE

Year: 2022

Volume: 17

Issue: 11

Print publication date: 01/11/2022

Online publication date: 02/11/2022

Acceptance date: 12/10/2022

Date deposited: 29/11/2022

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0276739

PubMed id: 36322555


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Funder referenceFunder name
BH is funded by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration North East and North Cumbria.
OW is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) on an in practice fellowship (NIHR301074)