BMA junior doctors chair demands better support to help trainees deal with psychological impact of pandemic

by BMA media office

BMA press release. 

Location: UK
Published: Saturday 8 May 2021

The chair of the BMA Junior Doctors committee will today demand better support from the Government, the NHS and education bodies to help trainee doctors deal with the psychological impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a speech2 to the Junior Doctor Conference 2021 this morning, Dr Sarah Hallett will warn that the wellbeing of staff must be taken seriously after a brutal year, urging health leaders to show the ‘political and institutional will’ to commit to improving the working lives of junior doctors.

According to the latest BMA survey3 in April, more than 40% of junior doctors said they were suffering from depression, anxiety, stress or burnout which had worsened because of the pandemic, while 60% said their current levels of fatigue or exhaustion were higher than normal.

Dr Hallett will tell the conference: “Despite the mounting evidence, the torrents of testimony, there is precious little action from the government and our employers.”

Dr Hallett will say: “Junior doctors have been caught in a perfect storm, often first to see patients, bearing the brunt of this national crisis, while in many cases, our training and our progression through our careers has been put on hold.

“We must see action from organisations like the NHS, the statutory education bodies and the Government, to step up and work with us to put in place real, practical, support to deal with these issues affecting our morale, our training and our wellbeing.

“We need initiatives to keep junior doctors progressing through their training and in the workforce, or we risk losing a generation of doctors, and it is our patients who will feel the consequences of that disaster.”

The calls come as the BMA this week launches a new wellbeing checklist for junior doctors. The tool will mean trainees can audit trusts and will help inform calls for improved wellbeing support as a result of the evidence gathered.

On the impact of the pandemic on training opportunities, Dr Hallett will say:

“For junior doctors, this has been no environment in which to train effectively. Finding time to study has been near-impossible, educational activities have been interrupted, and working days have often felt endless. In spite of this, we have put our patients first, and we - like the rest of the profession - have done indescribably important work in the most horrific and relentless of circumstances.”

On doctor pay, Dr Hallett will say:

“The efforts of NHS staff over the last year have been nothing short of extraordinary. We believe that the whole profession deserves a significant pay uplift, as a result of the efforts made during this pandemic.

“We also believe that this uplift must include doctors who are already involved in multi-year pay deals, where the impacts of the pandemic could not have been foreseen.”

On the work of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee during the pandemic, Dr Hallett will say:

“The interventions of our reps and staff during this most recent pandemic wave have ensured that where rotas were being written in the middle of a crisis to keep our patients safe, that these were also safe for doctors, and did not breach contractual safety rules. Our lobbying across the four nations ensured that vital annual leave days could either be carried over, or else paid. Without the work of the BMA, these days would have been lost.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association 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.

  1. The one-day conference takes place once a year and acts as the primary BMA policy setting body for junior doctors in the UK.
  2. Dr Sarah Hallett’s speech.
  3. Findings from BMA tracker survey 2021.

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