One in 15 doctors have drug or alcohol-related problems

One in 15 doctors will have a problem with alcohol or drugs at some point in their lifetime, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

The figures were revealed in the BBC’s Real Story television programme in June, which reported that 750 hospital staff in England had been disciplined over alcohol and drug-related incidents in the past 10 years.

The BMA’s survey found that at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, three consultants had been referred to the General Medical Council (GMC) for alcohol problems in three years.

Similarly, at East Kent NHS Trust, seven doctors and two nurses had been disciplined for drink and drugs in the past 10 years.

The highest figure was at the University of Leicester NHS Trust, where 17 clinical staff, including one consultant, four nurses and two operating theatre practitioners had been disciplined in the past decade.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of the BMA’s science and ethics committee, said: “Doctors work in very stressful environments in a culture where it is difficult to seek help.”

However, the BMA stressed that a ‘problem’ could mean anything from a single drink to aid sleep, right up to a more serious problem that could affect patient care.

Nathanson added that while there were some counselling and advisory services available, the government could do more by investing in specially designed services to meet “the distinct needs” of doctors.

“Doctors respond extremely well to treatment when they have the appropriate services available to them,” she said.


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