As the NHS struggles to cope with the omicron variant of Covid-19, a royal college has warned that more than two-thirds of doctors (69%) say they have felt overwhelmed at least once while at work in the past three weeks.
The survey of more than 1,200 physicians by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) this week found more than a quarter of respondents (27.5%) had felt overwhelmed once or twice during this period, and more than a fifth (21.5%) once or twice a week. Worryingly, a similar percentage (20.5%) said they had felt overwhelmed almost every day.
The RCP said the intense pressure was likely down to the high levels of staff absence the service has been experiencing, which has been putting immense pressure on already exhausted staff.
The RCP’s survey found that across the UK, 7.5% of respondents were off work (compared to 10.5% in December) and 3.5% because of Covid-19.
With so many people off work, more than half of doctors (55%) had been asked to fill a rota gap at short notice at least once during the past three weeks, adding yet further stress to their working days. Of those, almost a quarter (24%) had been asked to fill a rota gap at least once while on annual leave.
Dr Andrew Goddard, RCP president and a gastroenterology consultant, said: “Staff are feeling as low as ever before. The conversations I have with colleagues every day, lead me to sense a real shift in how well people feel they are able to cope. We need to keep this in mind because while we may see some light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel, we have a long way to go before we are through the current pressures and have even further to go to clear the backlog.”
Dr Goddard even admitted to having felt overwhelmed himself at times in recent weeks, though he added he felt “uncomfortable” saying it.
“I’ve not felt like this since I was a houseman being on-call every other night. These are extraordinary times and it is only through the support of colleagues and family that many of us are coping,” he said.