Almost half of UK doctors suffering from burnout, depression or anxiety, BMA survey reveals

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: UK
Published: Sunday 19 April 2020
Contract and pen article illustration

As the UK faces the biggest health crisis in recent history, almost half of its doctors say they are suffering from burnout, a major new survey by the BMA reveals. 1

According to the member survey, 44% of doctors said that they were currently suffering from depression, anxiety, stress, burnout or other mental health conditions relating to or made worse by their work.

The BMA carried out the snapshot survey of more than 6,000 doctors after receiving mounting evidence of the disturbing toll the Covid-19 pandemic, and related issues such as the lack of PPE, was having on doctors up and down the UK. More than 4,500 doctors responded to the questions around mental health.

The survey also showed that more than half of doctors (51%) did not feel personally supported by the Government and confident that everything possible was being done to help them to keep patients safe, despite pledges that more PPE was being delivered to the front line.

In testimonies provided to the BMA, one doctor said that “we are under immense and continuous stress”. While another doctor said: “What has been most distressing is seeing nurses break down uncontrollably in tears, knowing there is nothing you can do.”

More than 6,000 doctors from across the UK responded to the snapshot survey, which also found that a significant number of doctors, including those working in the most high-risk areas, are still without the equipment they need to protect themselves against Covid-19. Adequate supply of gowns and eye protection were highlighted as particular problems.2

This comes after the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock failed to guarantee that hospitals would not run out of gowns this weekend and the publication of new Public Health England guidance, which recommended the reuse of PPE for healthcare workers in the face of such shortages. It also recommended the use of alternative measures such as the wearing aprons instead of gowns to treat Covid-19 patients.

Chaand Nagpaul, BMA Council Chair, said:

“This is a deeply disturbing finding and demonstrates the toll this pandemic is having on the wellbeing of frontline doctors.

“Doctors are working within exceptional challenges in fighting this virus, working long hours looking after unprecedented numbers of seriously sick patients and with relentless increases in deaths daily.

“Doctors deserve to be protected from becoming infected themselves in the course of their duty, yet many of our fears and warnings are turning into reality. It is unacceptable that many are being forced into a corner as they face acute shortages of vital personal protective equipment, particularly given the increasing numbers of healthcare workers themselves dying with the virus.

“As the Prime Minister has said, healthcare workers are the lifeblood of our NHS. But we need to face reality: they are facing a surge of critically ill people, knowing they do not have the right PPE in order to protect themselves and their patients. It is unthinkable that this would not take an emotional and mental toll, and we know that Covid will be around for many more months yet.

“Doctors and all healthcare staff desperately need government support now. That means ensuring each healthcare worker has access to and is fitted with the correct PPE, so they can protect patients. It means ensuring thousands of healthcare workers currently self-isolating can get the tests they need in order to return to the front line.

“It also means properly recognising the incredible sacrifices our healthcare workers and their families are making. Not in words but in action.”



Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

6,126 members completed the BMA survey between 14 and 16 April 2020. See the report for a full breakdown of the wellbeing responses.

See more information on the PPE results.

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