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Losing the Battle against Burnout - Dr Mark Burgin

07/05/20. Dr. Mark Burgin BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP explains how an understanding of the mechanism of burnout can help personal injury and employment law solicitors.

The three classic features are (from the ICD 11) exhaustion, loss of effectiveness and negative view of work which manifest as secretiveness, irritability and time off sick.

Burnout causes a previously talented worker to develop profound disability leading to disciplinary issues as the workplace fails to recognise the syndrome.

Once established the workplace must report to the HSE and consider whether the Equality Act 2010 applies and the worker may have a personal injury claim.

It is estimated that 50% of medical professionals have burnout and a number are more seriously injured - the NHS has been urged to develop a workplace policy.

Survival strategies

As burnout disproportionately affects high achievers it has been suggested that workers should do the very minimum necessary to comply with their job role.

Clinical negligence cases are finding an increase in issues such as cutting corners, increasing unnecessary activity to game performance and one-size-fits-all thinking.

Professionals who use this strategy seem initially less stressed but then the burnout proceeds faster as they find that avoiding work is more tiring than doing it.

The most effective survival strategy appears to be to leave the workplace and find another job where they can excel without coming to the attention of the authorities.

Resistance is futile

The medical model of identifying cases, providing treatment and when the problem can spread isolating the affected individual has been a failure.

An alternative strategy looks at workplaces that have burnout as having a toxic environment that requires immediate action to make safe.

It is likely to be more effective to mandate workplaces to install detectors, set safe exposure levels and follow the correct response to a dangerous toxic load.

Workplaces resist these steps because it is easier to apply management fixes than to work with their workers to create a safe workplace.

Curing burnout

The simplest way of stopping workers from burning out is to close the workplace, this may not be practical where that workplace is the NHS.

Another suggestion is to fire all the managers as they are largely responsible for creating the systems such as targets and performance management.

The culture in toxic organisations has phase shifted and takes time, energy and money with charismatic leaders to flip back into a healthy environment.

My personal belief is that authenticity is the key attribute of a healthy organisation as any form of deceit creates internal conflict.


Few workplaces collect data on burnout or its features of exhaustion, loss of effectiveness and negative view of work.

It is usually not difficult to show that a workplace has toxic levels of stress from records of sickness, disciplinary actions and staff turnover.

The solicitor can apply to court for an adverse inference to be drawn on the workplace’s failure to have in place safe levels of exposure.

Establishing that the toxic workplace has caused the claimant’s injury is straightforward using the biopsychological model which identifies the causes of the symptoms.

Doctor Mark Burgin, BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP is on the General Practitioner Specialist Register.

Dr. Burgin can be contacted on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 0845 331 3304 website

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