UK physicians are thinking about retiring early, leaving the field altogether.
Covid-19 took a massive toll on the mental health of doctors around the globe, but in a recent survey, it was discovered that the mental health of doctors in the UK is now far worse. In fact, 861 doctors were surveyed by the Medical Protection Society (MPS), where it was found that 46% of doctors were in a worse psychological state than they were during the pandemic, primarily due to intense work pressure, increase in demand, and the issues NHS is facing with staffing.
After NHS England promised to share £2.3 for the maintenance of its 40 NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs in seven regions that were set up in 2021 for quick and convenient support, the British Psychological Society requested a freedom of information report which revealed that in order to run the sites efficiently, a fund of £40 million will be required.
According to Prof Dame Jane Dacre, MPS president said, “Nearly half of our members tell us their mental health is worse now than it was during the pandemic, and a similar amount is considering their future in healthcare due to mental health concerns.”
Of the members that were surveyed:
- 75% of them said when it comes to their mental health, the government is not doing enough for the healthcare workers.
- 40% said that working long shifts is causing distress.
- 43% were unsure about their career in the field due to concerns for their mental wellbeing.
- 76% indicated staff shortages is resulting in their inability to deal with their issues.
- 47% were concerned with the impact of burnout on the safety of the patients.
- Over 43% believe that their inability to do the right thing for the patient is taking a toll on their mental health.
Moreover, data from NHS Digital revealed that in March 2023, 24.2% of sick days across the health service were due to anxiety, stress, depression, or other psychiatric illnesses. This percentage has been gradually increasing, reaching 24.6% in February and 23.3% in January.
One of the survey participants said that the pressures faced by the NHS in secondary, primary, and social care settings, along with the loss of experienced staff, are making the job increasingly difficult. The constant fear of serious incidents and a sense of constantly dealing with crises without any respite are making effective care next to impsosible. One individual is even contemplating early retirement, much earlier than originally planned, citing concerns for their health and their family. The potential loss of experienced and expert staff could have a negative impact on the quality of NHS services.
The mental health and wellbeing hubs are a vital source of support for anxiety and depression for the staff, and according to Professor Dame Jane Dacre, the demand for support remains high. Given the current situation, it is the wrong time to reduce mental health provision for healthcare staff. The established network of hubs that support mental wellbeing and staff retention is crucial and should not be jeopardized. The government is urged to provide sustainable funding to strengthen these hubs. Investment in mental health support for staff is considered a fundamental pillar to address retention challenges, although retention is a complex issue with multiple factors that need to be considered.
The closure of wellbeing hubs due to a lack of government funding has exacerbated the situation, leaving many NHS staff without access to crucial mental health services. According to Saffron Cordery, trust leaders are deeply concerned about this issue and are making efforts to support staff and manage sickness absences, but they stress the importance of national support from the government.
She emphasized that staff satisfaction is vital for the health service to provide the best patient care. Therefore, proper government funding and support for staff mental health should be considered non-negotiable to ensure a sustainable and effective healthcare system.