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Plan mental wellbeing support now to avoid exodus of doctors after Covid-19

Post date: 22/06/2020 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 22/06/2020

The Government, NHS and private healthcare providers must plan now for the mental wellbeing support doctors will need following the Covid-19 pandemic, if we are to avoid huge swathes either leaving the profession or suffering in silence with psychological injuries, Medical Protection said today.

The world’s leading protection organisation supporting over 300,000 healthcare professionals around the world - said plans must include specialist support for those struggling with PTSD, alongside measures to ensure the system has capacity so those needing treatment or time to recuperate can be supported without adding to staff shortages.

The organisation said plans must also be backed by central government investment to maintain and expand local initiatives such as counselling services, ensure steps are taken towards every healthcare organisation having a dedicated person responsible for staff wellbeing, and fund fast-tracked research into the impact of the pandemic on doctors’ mental wellbeing.

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, Medicolegal Lead, Risk Prevention at Medical Protection, said:Adrenaline will still be carrying many healthcare workers through this pandemic and helping them to cope despite the exhaustion and tragedy they may be facing.  It is when the crisis truly recedes and there is time to reflect that the accumulated stress and trauma may surface - this is the time doctors will be most at risk and need support.

“The Government, NHS and private healthcare providers should be planning for this time now. A range of support will be needed; for most this will be the biggest health crisis in their careers, with countless patients and colleagues lost. Some will experience grief or moral injury, some may have unresolved anger over issues such as PPE supply, or distress and fear of reprisal at being unable to treat patients with non Covid-19 conditions. Others may suffer with PTSD, and many are at risk of burnout against a backdrop of an already burnt out workforce.

“A nationwide funded plan will ensure those doctors who need specialist support can access it when they need it most. But any plan must also build capacity and support into the system. Many doctors will not take time off to seek help if they are worrying about the extra workload for colleagues, or that they will be viewed as weak.

“If we don’t act now many doctors will become burnt out and disillusioned or suffer in silence with chronic psychological injuries - both of which put the safety of themselves and their patients at risk. Many others may sadly choose to leave the profession.

“Even after the worst has passed, Covid-19 will continue to bring pressures and complications, compounded by a significant referral backlog to deal with. The last thing we want is huge swathes of doctors leaving the profession after Covid-19. This must be avoided - it is time to care for doctors just as they have cared for us.”

END

Notes to editors

Additional information available:

  • A recent survey of Medical Protection members (conducted by Research By Design) showed that 1 in 5 doctors feel their mental wellbeing is worse compared to two weeks before the survey. Concern for the health of family and friends (50%), the health of patients (33%), their own health (30%), and worries about family responsibilities (30%) 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 18-29 May and achieved 717 responses from doctors in the UK. Full results available on request.

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

About Medical Protection Society

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.

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.

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