MAGAZINE: Alarming numbers of doctors experiencing mental health issues as a result of work pressures

A new survey, released by the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (RMBF), highlights the overwhelming concern amongst doctors about the state of their mental health and wellbeing as a result of working under increasing pressure and scrutiny.

Thursday, 7th April 2016, 1:16 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 10:01 pm
Report says doctors can experience mental health issues as a result of work pressures

The survey finds that 82% of doctors know of other doctors experiencing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Yet despite their need for support and advice, this ‘insider knowledge’ also revealed that doctors are unlikely to reach out for fear of discrimination or stigma from colleagues (84%), or are inhibited by their ‘high achieving’ personality traits (66%).

The survey, conducted amongst hospital doctors, consultants, GPs and charity supporters, also found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of doctors surveyed know of other doctors experiencing marital and family problems.

Additionally, 78% of doctors believed that doctors are so busy looking after others that they neglect to look after themselves, and over 90% believe their working hours put personal relationships under pressure.

Survey respondents were also asked to identify the key factors contributing to the significant pressure on doctors today. The results indicated that:

80% say patient case-loads are a key factor

80% say increased scrutiny (e.g. CQC inspections, pressure of revalidation) is a key factor

76% say working hours are a key factor

The survey was conducted by the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, a charity which helps doctors, medical students and their families, as part of their new ‘What’s Up Doc?’ campaign. The initiative aims to raise awareness of the need to offer support to doctors throughout the UK who are currently working under increasing difficulty. Worryingly, of those doctors surveyed the majority (66%) felt that the NHS provided a poor level of support to doctors and their families. As part of the campaign, the charity has developed a free downloadable online guide for professionals called ‘The Vital Signs’. Authored by Dr Richard Stevens, coach at Thames Valley Health Education England, the guide highlights key pressure trigger points for doctors, and signposts organisations and support networks for those in need of help and advice.

Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (RMBF)

The RMBF is a charity helping doctors, medical students and their families in times of crisis. The charity provides financial support, money advice and information when it is most needed due to age, ill health, disability or bereavement. This help includes grants and loans as well as a telephone befriending scheme for those who may be isolated and in need of support. The RMBF has a 250+ strong volunteer network across the UK. The charity, which has been helping doctors for 180 years, doesn’t receive any government funding and is solely supported by its fundraising efforts.