Call to maintain workplace improvements

by Jennifer Trueland

The leader of Scotland’s doctors has warned the NHS must not be allowed to ‘slip back’ to poor workplace culture, bullying and inappropriate behaviour as it emerges from the COVID-19 crisis.

Location: Scotland
Published: Friday 26 June 2020

BMA Scotland council chair Lewis Morrison was speaking as evidence emerged that doctors experienced improvements in the workplace during the pandemic.

Of the 700 doctors who took part in a BMA tracker survey, almost two thirds said there had been a greater sense of team-working, four in 10 said they felt more valued as a doctor, and a third said culture – how staff are treated and how they treat each other – had improved.

Mental health

The survey – conducted in the second half of June – also showed that doctors’ well-being continues to be of concern, with 30 per cent reporting deteriorating mental health during the pandemic.

Dr Morrison said there was an opportunity for the NHS to rebuild in a more positive way after the pandemic. ‘As the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully recedes, we are looking to the future of our NHS – but to shape that for the better we must learn from the past and not allow old problems to resurface.

‘Reports of improvements in behaviours and attitudes, a greater sense of teamwork, and the traditionally hierarchical structure of the NHS being swept aside to fight this pandemic give me hope. But colleagues fear the risk of the NHS simply slipping back into some of the old ways of working: the spectre of bullying, unsustainable workload pressures, target driven priorities, unnecessary bureaucracy and barriers to change and improvement. We have a real chance to prevent these things happening which we must take.’

Crossroads

Dr Morrison said it had been clear at the start of this year that NHS Scotland had to change, and that this had been underlined by recent events.

‘It seems strange that it took a pandemic to better learn the lessons, but this is a time when it is right to look for the good out of the bad. Our surveys have shown that, despite the huge pressures of dealing with COVID, that morale is better in many places, with a renewed sense of team. 

‘Caring for those who care, listening to them, working with them and providing for their physical and mental wellbeing clearly works and delivers results. 

‘We now have a real chance to emerge from this crisis with an NHS that is a better place for those who work in it – and that has to be good for everyone. We must not go back to the way it was. Let’s find a silver lining in this cloud and make a change for good.’