Staff shortages, mounting workloads and bullying cultures are just some of the threats to the mental welfare of doctors in hospitals and GP practices across the country, according to the BMA’s new study; Mental Health and the Medical Profession1, released on World Mental Health Day.
The paper reveals there is often little or no support in the workplace, so many doctors face long periods of sick leave because of mental illness, or in the most severe cases, resign, retire or retrain.
Now, with the launch of its Mental Wellbeing Charter, the BMA is calling on all NHS trusts and healthcare employers to do more to improve awareness and support for doctors’ mental health and welfare.
This follows a BMA study released earlier this year which found eight out of 10 doctors are at substantial risk of burnout and four in 10 were experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, burnout, stress, or a mental health condition.
BMA junior doctor committee chair, Dr Sarah Hallett, said:
"Doctors across the NHS are working in an increasingly pressured environment, in a service that has seen systemic underfunding year upon year. It is unsurprising that working in such difficult conditions takes a significant toll.
"Four in 10 respondents to the BMA's survey2 on the mental health of the medical workforce last year reported some form of mental health condition. It was sobering to discover that 90 per cent of those affected felt that their work environment had contributed to this.
“Doctors accept that their role will at times be challenging and emotionally demanding; this is the nature of our jobs. But when those entrusted to delivering care for patients need care themselves due in part to their workplace pressures, we have a problem.
"By adopting the steps in this Charter, employers can begin to make the necessary improvements for their staff.”
Commenting on the findings of the paper released today and the launch of the Charter, Professor Dinesh Bhugra CBE, Emeritus Professor of Mental Health & Cultural Diversity at King’s College London, who led a BMA project on medical students’ and doctors’ mental health and wellbeing as previous BMA president, said:
“Staff are the most important asset to the NHS and making these vital improvements will not only improve the lives of doctors and staff, but also act as an investment in the future of our health service.
“Employers have a duty to implement a safe and a healthy work environment and we hope that the launch of the BMA Mental Wellbeing Charter will serve as an important guideline to help them improve working conditions.
“While employers have a practical role to play in improving the situation for staff, they cannot go it alone. The Government must provide the right investment and resources to address wider systemic pressures, decrease the pressure on the medical profession, and ensure that trusts are able to provide adequate support for those who are struggling.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
1. BMA paper and executive summary: ‘Mental health and wellbeing in the medical profession’ can be found here, along with the Charter and other information.
2. The BMA commissioned the in-depth independent research to understand the risks of poor wellbeing, the perceptions of mental health in the profession, and the experience of doctors and students in most need of support for their mental health. In response to the findings the BMA has launched its Mental Wellbeing Charter, which calls on employers to:
- Embed staff wellbeing into the organisational culture;
- Tackle the mental health stigma and encourage staff to seek help if needed;
- Provide access to high-quality support services;
- Better support managers in identifying signs and symptoms of poor mental health in staff;
- Encourage staff to take breaks;
- Provide spaces for staff to rest and socialise.
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