Providing support for doctors
Working in the NHS can be very challenging – the day to day job can be emotionally draining, workload has increased due to more demand compounded by high vacancy rates and while targets may not be reached, they do not go away – adding to the stress.
In these difficult times it is vital that we support one another to make sure that patients receive the best care and management possible. This is also important because the wellbeing of staff is diminished by being overworked and feeling undervalued, which seems to be increasingly the case in today’s NHS. We owe it to ourselves to be happy, healthy staff. The recent GMC report on The State of Medical Education and Practice illustrates this point in several ways, showing that doctors are leaving the workforce and feeling that their work/life balance has deteriorated as they work beyond their contracted hours. Nearly one quarter of the workforce report feeling unsupported by immediate colleagues and accept that working under pressure is the new norm.
Stress affects doctors of all grades and in all specialties. The local department is usually the first port of call as people there will understand specific problems and be in a position to provide solutions and support. For doctors in training the Clinical and Educational Supervisors, College Tutors or Training Programme Directors through the Deanery and College structures offer practical and independent advice. These networks are set up to provide support and pastoral care, as well as educational objectives. Similarly, the Speak up Guardians in Trusts in England. Permanent members of staff have colleagues or mentors (locally and nationally) and the Medical Director to look to.
We know that some doctors, however, may feel inhibited to access help locally, for personal reasons or concerns over confidentiality, which may be unfounded, but have a negative effect on seeking help or referral. This may in particular relate to concerns not specifically about work such as mental health, addiction or financial worries.
Commonly sources of support are not well recognised, especially by those who are in critical need of help. It is important that doctors know about support networks before they are needed, so that they are both aware of the help that exists and how to access it.
Workforce across all colleges and faculties have experienced issues of wellbeing and have needed support in times of crisis. Therefore, following requests by colleges and faculties, the Academy has drawn up a list of organisations and resources that can be of support for doctors when they need it.
Professor Carrie MacEwen
Chair, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges