Doctors’ stress revealed

By a staff reporter

A defence body survey of more than 600 UK members reveals that 85% have experienced mental health issues, with common issues being stress (75%), anxiety (49%) and low self-esteem (36%).

A third of respondents told MPS they have had depression during their medical career, while one in ten (13%) stated they had experienced suicidal feelings.

Of those who had experienced mental health issues, they cited heavy workload (76%) and long working hours (70%) as factors that had a high or moderate impact on their mental health.

Additionally, high levels of regulation and scrutiny affected half of respondents’ mental health, and experience of a negligence claim had an impact on a quarter of them.

The effect on their professional life is striking, as 60% believe their mental health issues had an impact on their concentration and 36% felt it impacted on their empathy towards patients.

Four in ten of those affected did not discuss their issues with anyone, with 58% of those believing they did not need support and a quarter (24%) feeling there was a stigma attached to mental health issues.

MPS senior medico-legal adviser Dr Pallavi Bradshaw said: ‘Doctors help their patients with mental health problems but they often suffer alone. The experience can be isolating and can have a negative impact on professional confidence.

‘Medical Protection urges colleagues of doctors to look out for signs of mental health problems and offer support, such as talking through issues or helping to balance their workload.

‘It is important that doctors know that seeking help will not automatically lead to a referral to the General Medical Council or put their careers at risk.

‘Colleagues should provide support to those who may be vulnerable and in the interests of providing the best care to their patients. Doctors must seek help as soon as they experience mental health difficulties.’