Doctor burnout has risen to staggering levels since the start of the coronavirus pandemic with more than half of younger doctors in the UK considering leaving for a different career, according to a new survey.

The survey by Medscape UK found that the number of doctors experiencing depression and burnout has almost tripled and many doctors now say they are considering changing careers or retiring early.

Doctors across specialities were included in the survey with the majority working in the NHS (86%), 3% in the private sector only, and 11% in both. It features responses from doctors from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The survey also looked at how different generations of doctors have been affected during the pandemic and lockdown including millennials (aged between 24-39), generation X (aged between 40-55) and baby boomers (aged between 56-74).

One in four doctors say burnout is impacting on their life

Overall levels of burnout increased by 68% from a previous Medscape survey in 2018 (from 22% to 37%), with this year's report finding that generation X were the most burned out (42%), closely followed by millennials (41%) and baby boomers (30%). More than one in four doctors said that burnout has a severe impact on their lives.

Two-thirds of doctors describe themselves as feeling sad or blue, with nearly one-third of millennial doctors (32%) saying they have clinical depression. Although 46% said that their depression does not affect their interactions with patients, more than one in four said they are less engaged (actively listening and responding to patients) and more exasperated. Almost seven in 10 UK doctors did not find that 'clap for carers' boosted morale.

When considering actions to reduce burnout, early retirement was the most common answer selected – more likely to be considered by male doctors (57%) than female (39%), and most commonly by older doctors. Among younger doctors, 53% said they would consider leaving medicine for a different career, and 40% said they would look for a different job in medicine.

The report found that 54% would advocate for Covid-19 overtime or danger pay. Millennial doctors were the generation most in favour of extra Covid-19 pay (71%), compared to 57% for generation X and 45% for the baby boomers.

When a question around pay cuts was put to doctors, 88% of younger doctors said they would sacrifice £10,000 or less for a 20% reduction in weekly working hours. GPs were more likely than specialists to give up £10,000 or less (81% vs 73%). The report also revealed that 70% of doctors are aware of workplace programmes for stress/burnout but only 12% had used them.

Dr Rob Hicks, GP and and survey co-author, said "The coronavirus pandemic has put our healthcare services and healthcare professionals under extraordinary pressure. The second wave of coronavirus continues to exacerbate that pressure and will be taking its toll on doctors amidst the backdrop of resource shortages, and delayed and disrupted diagnosis and treatments.

"Doctors are dedicated professionals but still human, which reinforces that the support for medical professionals needs to be addressed on individual needs and circumstances."

For more news and articles on doctor burnout go to our doctor wellbeing section.