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Central mental wellbeing resource needed as doctors go from Covid-19 frontline to tackling referral backlog

21 July 2020

The Government, HSE and private healthcare providers must work together to improve access to mental wellbeing support for healthcare workers as they go from fighting Covid-19 on the frontline, straight to tackling a colossal referral backlog which will lead to further exhaustion, Medical Protection said today.

Medical Protection - the world’s leading protection organisation for healthcare professionals, supporting over 21,000 in Ireland – said doctors may be experiencing burnout, grief or PTSD from treating Covid-19 patients, but will not have time to seek treatment or recuperate before facing the many thousands of patients with delayed diagnoses following the cancellation of non-urgent care.

The organisation said doctors will carry on because of their sense of duty, but it fears many will become disillusioned or suffer in silence, putting the safety of themselves and their patients at risk.

It called on the Government, HSE and private healthcare providers to provide a centralised “one stop” mental wellbeing resource, so a range of existing support and resources can be accessed by all healthcare workers more quickly and easily. It said the HSE’s ‘Mind your mental health’ webpage, which provides general tips, could provide the basis for something more comprehensive.

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, Medicolegal Lead, Risk Prevention at Medical Protection, said: “Healthcare workers are used to pressure and exhaustion, but those on the Covid-19 frontline will have experienced the biggest health crisis in their careers with countless patients and some family members lost.

“They need a range of support and time to recuperate, yet they now face a colossal referral backlog which will lead to further physical and mental exhaustion. The backlog will have also resulted in delayed diagnoses or treatments for patients with serious conditions, and this will sadly impact on their outcomes. Such situations are devastating for the patients and doctors involved, and may also give rise to medicolegal disputes, claims and investigations creating more distress.

“Doctors will carry on regardless because of their sense of duty and vocation, but they are at great risk of becoming disillusioned or suffering in silence with chronic psychological injuries. Both of which put the safety of themselves and their patients at risk.

“During the height of the Covid-19 crisis in Ireland, we saw how the system can respond swiftly and creatively, and we hope to see the same drive behind mental wellbeing. There are some great resources available by a range of organisations, but they are hard to find - information about these services should be consolidated into a centralised “one stop” mental wellbeing resource so healthcare workers can access the support they need quickly and easily.”

END

Notes to editors

Additional information available:

  • A recent survey of Medical Protection members (conducted by Research By Design) showed that more than 1 in 10 doctors (13%) feel their mental wellbeing is worse compared to two weeks before the survey. Concern about the health of family and friends (38%), unfamiliar ways of working (33%), the health of patients (32%), family responsibilities (30%), social distancing (29%) and their own health (28%) were cited as having the most impact on doctors’ mental wellbeing.
  • The survey was conducted by the independent market research organisation, Research By Design www.researchbydesign.co.uk. It ran from 19-26 June and achieved 284 responses from doctors in Ireland. Full results available on request.

For further information contact: kate.tullett@medicalprotection.org +44 (0)7515 298791.

ABOUT MEDICAL PROTECTION

Medical Protection is a trading name of The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”). MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.

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