On the ground: overworked

by Neil Hallows

A doctor felt work was being dumped on her, and was intimidated when she asked for a review

Location: UK
Published: Tuesday 22 November 2022
stressed GP

It’s often called the ‘art of delegation’, but those who have work dumped on them by senior colleagues tend to refer to it a little less politely.

A specialty doctor felt she was being given not just too much work by her clinical supervisor, but that the work was of a consultant level, and outside her job plan.

The doctor was experienced, probably more so than many of her colleagues who were consultants, but this tended to mean she was put upon, with work being delegated informally and unfairly.

She asked for a job-plan review. Such reviews should be conducted annually but if working arrangements change, and are not in line with the job plan currently in place, doctors and managers can request a review at any time.

These meetings are usually informal and conducted without the doctor being represented. But when our member went along to this one, she found it very intimidating.

A senior manager seemed to have his own personal agenda and demanded a formal job plan be finalised by the end of the day.

It seemed to make a mockery of best practice for such meetings, which are supposed to be constructive, allow discussion and negotiation, and where the outcome should be a mutual agreement.

The doctor took sick leave, owing to work-related stress, and got the BMA involved. The BMA employment adviser attended sickness-review meetings with the doctor, and it seemed to prompt the employer to start behaving in a more humane manner.

They acknowledged the stress the doctor was under because of her colleagues crossing boundaries in their acts of delegation.

They had done it because she was the most experienced specialty doctor, but had not made allowance for how much work they had given her. They committed to a different approach.

This is an experience that will be familiar to many specialty doctors, who are asked – and often pressured – to take on work from consultant and junior doctor colleagues, particularly when staffing gaps appear.

With the help of the adviser, the doctor agreed a job plan with which she was satisfied.

She wrote to the adviser: ‘I will remember all the advice and guidance you have given and I know I can come back to you for advice in the future. I am very grateful to you and the BMA for helping me through this issue and bringing it to a closure.’

BMA members seeking employment advice can email for assistance.


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