A new report published today by the Society of Occupational Medicine and The Louise Tebboth Foundation offers evidence that UK doctors are at greater risk of work-related stress, burnout and depression and anxiety than the general population.
The incidence of suicide, especially among women doctors and for GPs and trainees, is also comparatively high.
What could make a difference to the mental health of UK doctors? A review of the research evidence found that the incidence of mental health problems among doctors is increasing alongside the growing demands and diminishing resources experienced in the healthcare sector.
GPs, trainee and junior doctors appear to be particularly vulnerable, experiencing distress and burnout early in their career.
The stigma associated with disclosing mental health problems and ‘a failure to cope’ revealed in the report mean that many doctors are reluctant to seek help as they fear sanctions and even job loss.
The report, carried out by Prof Gail Kinman of the University of Bedfordshire and Dr Kevin Teoh of Birkbeck University of London, reviewed research on the mental health of doctors, the factors that increased the risk of poor mental health, and the implications for their own wellbeing and that of their patients.
Prof Kinman commented: “The findings of our report are alarming. The poor mental health evident among UK doctors and the implications for themselves and their patients should be of grave concern to all healthcare stakeholders. Action is urgently required to address a working environment that can be toxic to health.”
Dr Teoh added: “It is crucial to provide doctors with more support from recruitment to retirement and develop a culture that challenges the mental health stigma and encourages help seeking."
Consultant Occupational Physician and Chair of the NHS Health at Work Network Dr Shriti Pattani welcomed the report: “The report highlights the importance of support in the workplace for doctors including emotional support. Occupational Health Services are the experts on the relationship of 'health and work' and are well placed to support doctors. Investment in NHS Occupational Health Services is important if they are to provide support to all Healthcare Workers.”
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