Nearly half of family doctors surveyed by a medical body said they are tempted to quit working as general practitioners (GPs) due to the impact of the pandemic.
A survey of 280 GPs by the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) found that 48% said they were likely to take early retirement or quit the NHS.
Almost four out of five (78%) GPs said they had experienced shortages of staff due to the pandemic, while 47% said stress levels were higher now compared with the first wave of Covid-19.
Around six out of 10 (59%) GPs said the lack of face-to-face consultation put themselves or other staff members at greater risk of abusive confrontations.
Chris Kenny, chairman of the MDDUS, said: “The pandemic has left doctors struggling to cope with patient care, their mental wellbeing and their desire to stay in the NHS for the long term.
“The planning under way now to rebuild the UK must address this triple whammy of concerns to protect the National Health Service, its staff and their patients in the future. Most urgently, there should be a step change in mental health support.
“Initiatives so far are welcome, but piecemeal in the face of the immediate pressures and long-term challenges our survey exposes.
“Regulators have responded to pressure from MDDUS and others to commit to ensuring fairness for doctors facing complaints in the wake of Covid-19.
“They must redouble their communication efforts and the UK’s prosecuting authorities must step up – as we first urged them nine months ago – to give similar reassurance.”
Dr Chris Williams, joint chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland, said: “These findings are a stark reminder of the enormous pressure general practice is facing. Throughout the pandemic, general practice has remained open to provide safe, patient care to those who require it in new and innovative ways.
“Many of our members are now reporting that their workloads are above pre-pandemic levels and they are of course managing this alongside the added challenges that come with delivering care during a pandemic.
“This is clearly having an impact on GPs’ wellbeing and this needs to be urgently addressed.
“RCGP Scotland has been warning for years of the workforce challenges that general practice faces and such findings demonstrate the clear need for action to be taken to bolster the numbers working within the profession and for solutions that can ease the escalating pressures on the service.”