Stress and burnout warning over COVID-19

by BMA news team

A BMA survey finds that nearly a half of UK doctors are suffering from burnout, depression or anxiety amidst continuing shortage of protective supplies.

Location: England
Published: Sunday 19 April 2020

The mental health of doctors has been seriously affected by the COVID-19 crisis, a survey from the BMA finds.

According to the member survey, 44% of doctors say they suffer from depression, anxiety, stress, burnout or other mental health conditions relating to or made worse by their work.

The BMA carried out the snapshot survey of more than 6,000 doctors after receiving mounting evidence of the disturbing toll the COVID-19 pandemic, and related issues such as the lack of PPE (personal protective equipment), was having on doctors up and down the UK. More than 4,500 doctors responded to the questions around mental health.

The survey also shows that more than half of doctors (51%) do not feel personally supported by the Government or confident everything possible is being done to help them to keep patients safe, despite pledges more PPE was being delivered to the front line.

Speaking about the survey results on the Sophy Ridge On Sunday Show on Sky News BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said the survey shows doctors were ‘extremely worried, stressed and anxious’.

He added: ‘They are working in unimaginably challenging conditions. They are looking after patients in hospitals that have been turned into COVID centres, treating patients who are now allowed visitors and are dealing with deaths they have never experienced before.’

Dr Nagpaul said doctors and healthcare workers were having to treat colleagues suffering from COVID-19 and ‘seeing some of them not survive’.

‘This is extremely emotionally and physically taxing and it’s taking its toll on the workforce.’

Doctors and all healthcare staff desperately need government support now. That means ensuring each healthcare worker has access to and is fitted with the correct PPE, so they can protect patients. It means ensuring thousands of healthcare workers currently self-isolating can get the tests they need in order to return to the front line.

Statement from Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair

The release of the survey findings comes after further concerns about continuing shortages of PPE emerged on the weekend as well as advice on the use of PPE being updated by Public Health England on Friday 17 April.

Responding to the new guidance BMA consultants committee chair Rob Harwood challenged the new advice from PHE.

He said: 'Telling staff to use aprons in the place of gowns directly contravenes both PHE’s previous guidance and that of the World Health Organization. This is guidance that’s there to help keep healthcare workers and their patients, out of harm's way.

'If it’s being proposed that staff reuse equipment, this must be demonstrably driven by science and the best evidence – rather than availability – and it absolutely cannot compromise the protection of healthcare workers.

'Too many healthcare workers have already died. More doctors and their colleagues cannot be expected to put their own lives on the line in a bid to save others, and this new advice means they could be doing just that. It’s not a decision they should have to make.'

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