Improving the mental wellbeing of doctors and medical students

Read about our work to improve the mental health of the profession, including during and beyond coronavirus, new research and our wellbeing charter.

Updated: Tuesday 10 October 2023
NHS Structure Article Illustration

Supporting mental health now and beyond COVID-19

NHS workers continue to be on the frontline of this pandemic risking serious illness of themselves and their families - potentially storing up trauma for the future. It is likely that the worst of the mental health consequences on the NHS workforce may be yet to come.

The BMA has developed a set of ten recommendations to be addressed to protect staff now and in the future.

Our charter for mental wellbeing

Our charter provides a basis for positive change within the place of work and study, drawing from research and the involvement of medical students and doctors.

It sets out the important practical steps we want employers to take to:

  • build a supportive culture
  • develop a wellbeing strategy
  • create healthy workplaces
  • tackle the stigma around mental ill-health
  • foster peer support
  • ensure support services are accessible and of high-quality
  • ensure services have the confidence of those they are intended to help.

The BMA is asking employers to sign up to the standards in our charter. Additionally, if you want to help us promote a supportive culture and a healthy working environment for doctors, get in touch with your local BMA representative.

Our checklists for mental wellbeing

You can use this checklist to highlight any of the points where your workplace is failing to your employer.

This will give the evidence for them to make improvements and get positive change in your workplace.

Junior doctors' checklist

We recognise the additional impact that the rotational nature of junior doctors' work can have on wellbeing.

This checklist can be used with the wellbeing charter to put simple measures in place to support the wellbeing of all junior doctors.

Medical students checklist

In the aftermath of the pandemic, the discrepancies in student wellbeing support services offered by medical schools across the country are more apparent now than ever before.

This checklist provides guidance on practical and actionable adjustments that universities can make in order to help cultivate and sustain student mental and physical wellbeing.

MIND toolkit

'Supporting the mental health of NHS staff: the role of leaders, managers and champions' is a toolkit produced by MIND and funded by the BMA.

It provides practical advice and tips to help NHS leaders, and line managers, reduce mental health stigma, create mentally heathy cultures and support better mental health.

View the toolkit


Research into the mental health and wellbeing of the medical profession

Following the first ever BMA survey of doctors’ and medical students’ mental health in Autumn 2018, we commissioned in-depth independent research to understand the risks for poor wellbeing, the perceptions of mental health in the profession, and the experience of doctors and students in most need of support.

What the research tells us

Participants were clear about the biggest threats to medical professionals' wellbeing and the areas in which they expected to see system-wide changes.

These included: working within a health system under pressure; the tension of rising patient demand and understaffing; and inflexible and unsupportive working arrangements, including for those whose health had already suffered.

Within the profession there also remains a stigma of mental health and fear of judgement, a lack of workplace amenities for wellbeing, and a need for greater peer-led support.

BMA survey of doctors' and students' mental health

The BMA began research of the mental health and wellbeing of the medical profession when, in October 2018, we led a UK wide survey of doctors and students. 

The survey showed that around three in 10 respondents had experience of being diagnosed with a mental health condition and nine in 10 stated their working, training or study environment had contributed to their condition.

Personal stories: doctors in training with experience of mental illness

The BMA has published unique insights into what it is like to experience mental illness during a doctor’s trainee years. Independent research by academics at Swansea University found that some participants in the study had continued working even though they knew they were ill and sometimes after they had been diagnosed and advised to take sick leave.

Mental health report of medical students in Wales

In 2020 we conducted a mental health survey of medical students in Wales Our report covers:

  • insight into the mental health experiences of medical students in Wales
  • an evaluation of the effectiveness of mental health support available
  • recommendations to improve mental health support for medical students in Wales.