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Apply & close

Does your employer offer adequate support in dealing with stress in the workplace?

I've been looking at ASD (anxiety, stress and depression) rates at different trusts and wanted to ask people to get in touch with their good or bad experiences, particularly in the run-up to the International Conference on Physician Health on September 15-17.

I am interested in how well supported you feel in terms of dealing with stress in the workplace. Does your trust or employer have a particularly robust or effective strategy for dealing with stress and guarding against work-related anxiety or even depression? Could you give examples? Or, do you feel your trust could do more - how/why? Do you think this issue is more of a problem for junior doctors? Are consultants immune to these problems?

Is this an issue that employers should take more notice of and do you think it is a prevalent problem within the medical workforce? You can post your comments below either signed in, or anonymously. 

38 replies

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I have a diagnosis of eating disorder & depression; I'm a trainee paediatrician.  My experience is that individuals (consultants, nursing staff, managers) have been very supportive and have taken the time to get to know me & what I can/can't manage.  Those whom I haven't told about my diagnosis have been amazing too, and have just given me time & space when I've needed it.

    The problem has been with the structures that are supposed to support me.  Occupational health basically told me that they couldn't help and sent me back to my GP when I relapsed; they've made no effort to follow me up or contact me to see how things are.  In fact, their attitude was that I would want to keep this hidden (I don't) and that I didn't need to tell my supervisors (I do, and have done).  Educational supervisors have either panicked when I've told them, or just ignored the e-mails.  

    The worst has been the institutional stigma & discrimination against patients with mental health problems.  

    So, individuals are great (probably because the more I talk about it, the more I realise that they have similar experiences), but the organisational response is non-existent.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Thanks very much for getting in touch and offering your perspective. It's interesting to hear that you have had support from individual staff but that organisational structures have let you down. Why did occupational health say they couldn't help you, if you don't mind me asking? I wonder if this is a common experience....

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Stephanie Jones-Berry:

    I am currently on my second episode off sick with work-related stress. Occupational Health have been helpful and supportive by giving suggestions and advice to me department. My department however have been absolutely useless. My perception is that they do not care. Eventhough my absence from work results in a significant backlog of work (I am a full-time SAS doctor) they make little effort to change things to enable me to stay mentally well so I bpvpcan continue to do my job.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Anonymous:

    Having run a mental and psychological health company for GPs in the Cleveland area of the UK for the past 13 years I was very interested to read your comments. We had our previous funding withdrawn following the demise of the PCTs ( our previous funders ) but the Local Medical committee valued our service so much that they have provided funding for the next year. We tried to get a contract to provide the service to the doctors at the local DGH but they were not interested as they claimed to provide this service already. The unique selling point of our system is our absolute confidentiality. We have made representations to the Minister and through our local MPs but as yet have had no joy. Please visit our website www.gp-health.org to see what can be achieved. Dr Leslie Dobson

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Anonymous:

    I had a trust with a great OHD physician and a wise HR director and a very generous PCT who funded support after a very difficult time working a two year interregnum. But now funding cuts have limited what can be done. There is no external self referal health support in the North West area. I would love to see the London deanery system rolled out. The recent. GMC suicide review illustrates to me how dangerously burnt out doctors get. I find myself wondering what the BMA can do to change the situation although my current situation makes me think that perhaps out union should be considering HSE reviews and class action. After all the keogh hospitaller all had well bellow national average consultant numbers and low JD numbers. When we consider aerospace perhaps we should be asking how many pilots there are per plane journey.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I am currently trying to head off a developing stress problem by reducing my sessions (I am a part-time associate specialist, approaching retirement). Unfortunately my line manager does not really take the issue seriously and no progress has been made in 6 months.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Anonymous:

    As a consultant in occupational medicine I am interested to learn more about your bad experience of occupational health in your trust and also if you have done anything about it. I regularly review, support, collaborate in treatment and regular follow up of sick Drs in my Trust. I am a member of the Faculty HHP co-ordinating group and trying to enhance OH support for sick Drs. I am disappointed to hear of your bad experience.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    After 32 years in the job I succumbed to time off sick due to work related issues. My GP and occupational health have been very supportive but the issues leading to my "distress" have not been dealt with at all and I see no end in sight. I am back at work but in a very reduced capacity. What a waste when all I need is an explanation of their behaviour. I suspect I will be dead before I ever get an answer!

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Anonymous:

    .

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Anonymous:

    I haven't worked in a hospital for 6 years but when I did there was huge stigma relating to mental health problems. I would never have shared my difficulties with colleagues or supervisors. I did once mention that I was struggling while working in an unsupported high stress environment and I received no support and felt that I had been judged as 'inadequate' by my senior colleagues. General practice has been better. We deal with mental health issues in so many consultations that acknowledging our own and our colleagues problems is easier. It still took me a long time to share my anxiety problem with my colleagues but I am very glad I did. I do despair of the NHS in terms of the well-being of clinical staff - if we don't care for the workforce how can we expect them to have endless compassion for the vulnerable patients in their care? I would like the BMA to campaign for more support within trusts and surgeries for clinicians.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Recently I met several consultant colleagues from a former department in the hospital service. I was horrified at their stressed demeanour and wondered how many would crack up. One already had and had only partly modified his work load and then continued to work beyond a natural retirement age. Another was clinically diagnosable as probable case of anxiety. That person was also short tempered and physically appeared to have lost weight below a good natural level. A third had only partly recovered from a vexatious investigation of his work. A further large group of consultants were clearly apathetic and shell shocked by successive demands upon them. No support was being offered by colleagues appointed to lead roles.

    Indeed some would liken the current situation to the dog eat dog atmosphere commonly found in certain idealogies.

    Do not forget that doctors are largely motivated by altruism and act accordingly. The additional burdens now placed on them are the fall out from inadequate decision making at central government level. Let us return to caring medical superintendents assisted by technical accountancy etc. to run hospitals and make their leaders accountable for unwarranted work related stress-Anon.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I am an part time SAS in Psychiatry and have recently been off work with "Work induced stress and anxiety".

    I made it known to my managers that I was becoming stressed and unwell but little/nothing was done to help over the 8 months from when I first told my manager, whilst I became more and more unwell, despite the trust having an excellent "Stress Policy". This policy was not followed at all.

    I even put my concern about my health in writing in an email, as previous conversations seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. My stress was documented by my manager in my supervision record on several occasions. I was told that there was nothing that could be done to alleviate my position/workload/stress as the only way they could do so would be by employing a locum - and there was no money to do so. My GP wrote to my manager and clinical director expressing his concerns about my mental health. When I finally went off sick, Occupational Health gave my manager excellent (and quite specific) advice, but this was not followed. I attempted to return to work but despite assurances to the contrary found that nothing whatsoever had changed. I became even more stressed (if that was possible!) and went off sick again after only a few days. This time I saw a different Occupational Health Consultant who gave even more specific and direct advice – but again this was not followed.

    With help from the BMA I returned to work again after a total of about 5 months off. Since my return (which was phased over 6 weeks) 5 months ago, I have not been invited to a single meeting to ask how I am or for management supervision. I have not yet returned my normal level of mental health.

    When I reported a return of severe stress to my manager again a couple of weeks ago (triggered by the same things that had caused it last time – covering for a colleague), I was told to smile, to stop looking stressed because it was upsetting the team and “get back out there”. Not surprisingly, the stress policy was not followed, yet again.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Anonymous:

    It's really noticeable to me how attitudes have changed towards doctors over the years where once I'm told hospital accommodation had waiter service at the tables with a cooked breakfast, a cleaner for your room who made the bed daily, by the time I got there, the sheets were in a pile  on the bed for you to make it yourself and breakfast was self service 'make your own toast'.  Nonetheless doctors were respected (possibly too much in some ways) and their foibles allowed.  The CIC I work for now had a manager who had taken me through a five month 'personal responsibility plan' started because I had been late to finish clinics writing notes and labelling specimens meaning administrator couldn't get to her Pilates class on time) and had answered emails in a meeting.  (I have since noticed that almost every member of the team does the same thing).  I am under constant pressure to meet targets, constant scrutiny to work clinically in the approved manner (I get an email if the panel of non clinicians examining our work does not approve), I'm told quite that I am an employee and this or that is what I am paid for.  I have had to remind the chief exec to give me positive feedback as well as negative (as part of good practice in supervision) on occasion.  I've found the solution to my work related stress though, I will be resigning next week and taking up more hours where I am appreciated accommodated and supported

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    In reply to Anonymous:

    I have recently taken early retirement due to work related stress caused by bullying by my line manager  with the full knowledge of the medical director and even the Chief Excutive .

    I was a consultant working in the NHS for over 25years I  have experienced extream bullying by colleagues  who had poor clinical competence  and who befriend managers to cover serious incompetence .

    I found that the culture of bullying has been enhanced since the initiation of Trusts. In my experience most hospital managers promote bullies with the intention of deviding and weakening consultants and this pleased those who are after promotion by undermining  more competent colleagues . Anon

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Hi, Thank you for this information. I cover GP news issues for the BMA and would be interested in following this up. My email is [email protected] In the meantime, I'll have a look at your website. Best wishes, Flavia

     

    Anonymous

    Having run a mental and psychological health company for GPs in the Cleveland area of the UK for the past 13 years I was very interested to read your comments. We had our previous funding withdrawn following the demise of the PCTs ( our previous funders ) but the Local Medical committee valued our service so much that they have provided funding for the next year. We tried to get a contract to provide the service to the doctors at the local DGH but they were not interested as they claimed to provide this service already. The unique selling point of our system is our absolute confidentiality. We have made representations to the Minister and through our local MPs but as yet have had no joy. Please visit our website www.gp-health.org to see what can be achieved. Dr Leslie Dobson