According to a joint study by Birkbeck, University of London and University College London (UCL), 55% of 417 UK doctors surveyed met the criteria for burnout and emotional exhaustion. The study also found that more than a third admitted to drinking alcohol to cope with work-related stress. Anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia were also reported among medical professionals at significant levels. A further BMA survey corroborates the findings, concluding that a staggering 90% of GPs faced a ‘high risk’ of burnout.
Although the NHS’ long term plan seeks to address the pressure on medical professionals with new recruitment initiatives, the additional funding and expanded workforce plans can’t come quickly enough. The findings raise serious concerns, not only over the health of NHS workers, but also over the quality of care doctors are able to give patients. The impact of substance use and sleep problems could seriously impair a doctors’ judgement or their ability to perform routine medical procedures.
High levels of ill health among doctors means that absences could further reduce patient safety because of understaffing. The NHS’ chronic staffing shortage has also been caused by falling numbers of trainee doctors entering the profession with a high dropout rate among those that do.
The Independent recently reported on the pressures that junior medical staff work under, quoting information from the General Medical Council’s (GMC) National Training Survey. Of more than 75,000 junior trainee doctors who were surveyed, a quarter said that their job leaves them burnt out to a high or very high degree – up from 23.9 per cent in 2018.
Over a third said their daily workload was heavy and just 44% said they had access to free rest facilities when working on call at nights. Nearly two-thirds said they didn’t have access to catering or a staff room while working out of hours. More than half of doctors said they got their rota with less than six weeks’ notice, giving them insufficient time to plan around family events.
The Royal College of Physicians commented that the level of basic provision for junior doctors was shocking and unacceptable. The lack of adequate rest space and catering facilities for out of hours can have a serious impact on stress levels and performance. These problems are further exacerbated by the fact that many trainee doctors are unsure about who to go to within their organisation with concerns about their health and wellbeing.
GPonline recently reported that more than one in 20 GPs had sought help from the GP Health Service, a specialist NHS mental health service, since its inception two and a half years ago. A spokesperson for NHS England said: “It is vital that doctors know that there is help available to them when they need it, which is why the NHS is introducing the most comprehensive national mental health support offer to doctors of any health system in the world. The GP Health Service exists for those practitioners who may need more specialist support from a team who understands the professional or regulatory issues doctors face.
Although the NHS website recently claimed that recruitment for GPs and nurses is up from last year, there are long training periods involved in most medical and healthcare careers. This means that the benefits of the new recruitment initiatives may not be felt for several years. Further changes such as the recently launched primary care networks seek to alleviate pressure specifically on GPs. In the meantime, it’s important that medical professionals are adequately supported in the demanding roles they perform for our health service.
RoQ Recruitment work with trusted clients in both the NHS and the Private Sector to gain access to the industry’s best opportunities. At RoQ we focus on work-life balance and our healthcare recruiters will take time to find you opportunities to achieve your professional and personal goals. To find out more about beating burnout in the healthcare industry, read our article here.
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