Follow our simple guide on what to do if you are concerned about a medical colleague and their state of physical or mental health.
Worrying signs to look for
What to do about your concerns
Next steps to take
Sources of help
If you are concerned about the health of a colleague, a first step is often to speak to the individual concerned, to ask how they are and whether they are aware of any health problems.
Sometimes a sympathetic approach will allow a colleague to talk about the difficulties they are experiencing, and may lead the doctor to seek help through occupational health services or their own GP.
Although doctors are notoriously poor at accessing care, specific services for doctors with mental health or addiction problems are available in some areas and have been very effective at providing a service tailored to doctors' needs. Mutually agreed time off may allow the issues to be explored.
Remember that the individual involved, will be going through a really difficult and distressing time and your support and understanding of this can make all the difference.
If you are a GP
It is very important that GP's be registered with a GP outside their own practice.
Occupational health can also offer valuable advice and assistance.
If you are a junior doctor
You may not feel you can raise the issues with your colleague. You may be in a junior role, and not in a position to have such a discussion with a senior colleague or your consultant.
Start by raising your query on an anonymous basis with a senior colleague you feel comfortable speaking to about it.
You might be worried about the health of another junior doctor who is about to move on to a different hospital and role. You might raise concerns with the doctor who denies any problems and appears to have no insight into the changes in their own behaviour. You might question your own judgement.
If raising your worries with the doctor themselves has been ineffective or not possible, you will need to consider who else you should speak to.
It would be sensible to start by raising your query, possibly on an anonymous basis, with a senior colleague that you are comfortable to speak to about it. Your colleague can help you assess the significance of your observations.
You should consider ringing your defence organisation, as the adviser you speak to is likely to have dealt with many such cases and be able to advise you in light of the specific issues raised.
If you are in a senior role
Having considered the options, through your discussion, you may then need to go back to the doctor you are concerned about, to talk again about the sources of help available for them and how they might seek their own advice.
If this is unsuccessful, you should consider raising your concerns with those with some responsibility for the doctor concerned.
In the case of a trainee, their educational supervisor will be following their progress and may be a good place to start. Programme directors may also be helpful in such situations.
If the doctor is an associate specialist or consultant, a clinician with a managerial role, such as the clinical or medical director, is likely to be appropriate.