Organisation-wide interventions needed to tackle ‘endemic’ NHS burnout

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Only organisation-wide interventions will help protect the wellbeing of doctors and avoid “endemic” burnout“ within the NHS, according to a report.

Forty-five per cent of UK doctors surveyed by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) said they had considered leaving the profession because of concerns for their wellbeing, while 35% thought about moving abroad for the same reason.

Forty-four per cent of the 275 doctors polled said they did not feel encouraged by their line manager or GP partner to discuss any mental health concerns.

The MPS’s Breaking the burnout cycle report called on every NHS organisation and private sector health provider to appoint a “wellbeing guardian” by 2022 to give health professionals access to someone who is able to recognise any mental health concerns and provide support.

The government should also fund a counselling service for healthcare professionals, the report said, while the Care Quality Commission should assess the extent to which healthcare providers look after the wellbeing of their staff.

Finally, the report encouraged all healthcare organisations to put clear policies in place to ensure health professionals felt able to take breaks and time off when ill.

MPS president Professor Dame Jane Dacre said the increasing numbers of doctors reporting feeling “burnt out” was troubling and could affect patient care.

“It is perhaps one of the great paradoxes of our age, that modern medicine allows doctors to do more for their patients than ever before, yet increasing evidence shows that doctors feel burnt out and disillusioned in ever greater numbers.

“We simply must not let the environment we work in reduce the sense of value that we get from being a doctor – there is much that can be done, and the healthcare community as whole has a responsibility to act.”

One GP who had recently left the NHS said emphasis on service provision and targets had “eroded what it means to be a doctor”. They said: “It is impersonal, mentally draining, and bad for your physical health.

“I feel burnout. Management has no idea as to the day-to-day pressures of the job and piles on more and more (unrealistic) targets/expectations.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers and deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the report’s findings highlighted the challenging conditions that healthcare professionals continued to work in.

“We welcome the recommendations and will continue to work with employers to ensure doctors feel supported in their workplaces,” he said.

“However, action is also needed by government in two important areas: capital investment is urgently required to improve our working environments and give clinical teams the tools they need to do their jobs well, and there must be a plan for long-term investment in social care, so that the jobs we ask our teams to do feel achievable.”

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