Plan to help private doctors with stress

By Robin Stride

Independent practitioners will have access to their own ‘well-being guardians’ in private surgeries, clinics and hospitals under plans being promoted this month by a doctors’ defence body.

These posts are being developed in the NHS and now the Medical Protection Society (MPS) is pushing to have them mirrored in the private healthcare sector to help rising numbers of doctors facing mental health issues.

Earlier this year, the BMA called for more mental health support for NHS staff after a report found only half of doctors were aware of any services to help them with physical and mental health problems at their workplace. One-in-five respondents said no support services were provided.

An MPS spokesperson told Independent Practitioner Today: ‘There is still work to be done on how this role can be developed in private practice, particularly among smaller stand-alone clinics and practices who we would encourage to join up to and form a cluster. 

‘We want to ensure doctors have a dedicated person who makes their health and well-being a core priority and is trained to recognise and support them when they are experiencing difficulties and will look to work with the industry to see how this could be best implemented.’ 

The MPS warns that private healthcare, NHS organisations, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and the Government must act to tackle the ‘burn-out endemic’ in healthcare and support doctors to stay in practice, rather than quit or move abroad.

In a new report, Breaking the burnout cycle, it says only organisation-wide interventions will safeguard the well-being of doctors and avoid them becoming burnt out and disillusioned in ever greater numbers.

An MPS survey of 275 UK doctors revealed that 35% of respondents have considered moving abroad due to personal well-being concerns, 45% have considered leaving the profession for the same reasons, and 44% said they do not feel encouraged by managers or partners to discuss well-being issues. 

The Society is calling for:

 A named well-being guardian in all NHS organisations by 2022, with the same principle applied to private healthcare and GP practices, ensuring access to someone trained to recognise and support them when they are experiencing difficulties; 

 Governments to fund a confidential counselling service for all healthcare professionals across England, Wales, Scotland and in Northern Ireland;

Prof Dame Jane Dacre

 The CQC to assess the extent to which healthcare providers look after the well-being of their doctors as a key line of inquiry.

MPS president Prof Dame Jane Dacre said: ‘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 doctors feel burnt out and disillusioned in ever greater numbers.

‘The causes of burn-out have been widely debated and include the growing demands and complexity of the job, a faster pace of work and tighter financial constraints.

‘The problem is also not unique to the UK, to the NHS or to any one specialty. It is a global phenomenon affecting all clinicians.’