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Mental health and wellbeing in the medical profession

Our new charter for mental wellbeing

Our charter 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.

Contact your LNC (local negotiating committee)

Download the charter

The BMA’s work to improve the wellbeing of the profession does not end with the publication of our charter. It provides a basis for positive change within the place of work and study, drawing from research and the involvement of medical students and doctors themselves.

 

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.

Download the summary and recommendations

Download the full report

What does the research tell 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.

This research does not attribute a single cause of mental ill health within the profession. Doctors and students are exposed to a range of factors in their environment which threaten their wellbeing and, for those experiencing ill health, can worsen existing conditions.

Who took part?

The research consisted of in-depth interviews, focus groups and powerful personal testimonies by a sample of participants who had taken part in our 2018 survey. This included doctors and students with diagnosed conditions, those who reported symptoms of ill health and those who were well but, like their colleagues, recognised the unique strain of a medical career.

 

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. With several thousand responses, the survey received strong engagement from across the profession, many of whom told us about their wellbeing, including whether they had ever been diagnosed with a mental health condition, how their work had impacted them, their management strategies and attitudes to currently available support.

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.

Read more in our report

 

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.

Further, most participants preferred not to disclose their illness to their educational supervisor or anybody else who might have any influence over their career progression.

Read more in our report