BMA calls for extra support for doctors suffering from poor mental health and wellbeing

Almost half of doctors in England (45%) report suffering from work-related anxiety, burnout and depression, with a third of those saying this has worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic, a recent BMA survey has revealed.

In a paper published today, the BMA is calling for more support for doctors suffering with poor mental health and wellbeing, with previous BMA research finding that one in five doctors feel they do not have access to the help that they need.

The Association says a long-term strategy that protects and maintains the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of the workforce must be a top priority for the NHS, lasting beyond any interim Covid-19 support.

Throughout the crisis, doctors in hospitals and GP practices have been exposed to heightened workplace pressures which were having a detrimental impact on the mental health and wellbeing of staff.

One doctor told BMA: “Staff are extremely worried and distressed, and this has been made worse by the introduction of new rotas that have increasing number of anti-social hours. When does this leave time for rest or any sort of normality?”

Among the key recommendations for the NHS outlined in the paper, the BMA says:

  • That wellbeing support services are equally available for all doctors working across all healthcare settings;
  • That wellbeing support services must be inclusive and accessible to all doctors working in the NHS to ensure that their needs are met;
  • That occupational health services are accessible to all those who need them across all healthcare settings and that they have the capacity to provide support when it is required;
  • To ensure that staff who present with significant mental health conditions are able to access appropriate treatment when they need to.

This comes as the BMA’s wellbeing support services have seen a 40% increase in use over the last three months, including from those who are feeling anxious about going to work to face unknown situations.

During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, one hospital doctor said: “Yesterday I experienced physical symptoms of anxiety- fast breathing, anxious, feeling of fluttering in my chest. My friend had to calm me down on the phone.”

Commenting on the paper and survey findings, BMA council deputy chair and lead for wellbeing, Dr David Wrigley, said:

COVID-19 has undoubtedly put a huge strain on the health and wellbeing of NHS staff. It has greatly exacerbated the challenges staff faced before the pandemic and now it is adding significant new ones.

Many doctors have experienced a significant rise in their workload and have had to deal with the added anxiety of concerns over PPE and their own safety while delivering care on the frontline during the pandemic.  

This is highlighted in our latest research with 45% of doctors saying they are suffering from depression, anxiety, stress or burnout relating to or made worse by their work.

It is unacceptable that almost half of all frontline workers are carrying this burden. What is also disturbing is that one in five doctors feel they do not have access to the help that they need.

As the UK looks to ease lockdown and the number of Covid-19 cases decrease, NHS workers will continue to be on the frontline of this pandemic.

The NHS must step up its mental health support offer to all staff during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of the workforce must be a top priority for the NHS for the long-term.”

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