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General Practitioner perspectives and wellbeing during the COVID-19 Pandemic: a mixed method social media analysis

By Su Golder, Laura Jefferson, Elizabeth McHugh, Holly Essex, Claire Heathcote, Ana Cristina Castro-Avila, Veronica Dale, Christina Van Der Feltz-Cornelis, Karen Bloor

Posted 22 Oct 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.10.19.21265194

Background: General practitioners (GPs) adapted their work practices rapidly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Limited research has explored their perspectives over this time, and factors that may affect their wellbeing. Method: We conducted a social media analysis of NHS GPs practising in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic to identify issues which may affect their wellbeing. To identify trends, we assessed 91,034 tweets from 185 GPs on Twitter who posted before and during the pandemic, (January 2019 to February 2021). To identify themes related to wellbeing, we analysed qualitatively 7145 tweets posted during the pandemic from 200 GPs. Results: We identified inter-connecting themes that affect GP wellbeing, predominately around resources and support. Lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing led to discussion of safety and risk, as well as increased workload resulting from staff isolating. Expressions of low morale and feeling undervalued were widespread, resulting from the perceived lack of support from the government, media and the general public at a time of staff shortages and high workload. Trends in themes were apparent, with emphasis on PPE, testing and safety March to May 2020 and morale, abuse, 'closed' GP surgeries, testing, flu vaccines and overworked September to October 2020. From December 2020 the COVID-19 vaccine dominated posts. Conclusion: GPs' experiences and perceptions as reflected in their social media posts during the pandemic have changed over time; perceived lack of support and resources, and negative public perceptions have exacerbated their concerns about existing underlying pressures.

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