NHS doctors stretched to breaking point, says survey

A new survey of doctors shows the majority are at risk of burnout.


Mature female doctor standing on hospital corridor, looking at clipboard.

Eight out of 10 NHS doctors are at a substantial risk of burnout, according to a British Medical Association survey.

More than a quarter of the 4,300 respondents to the survey said they had received previous, formal diagnoses of mental conditions and four out of 10 said they were suffering from psychological or emotional distress, which affected their work, training or study.

The survey comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock spoke of the need for a more flexible culture in the NHS and called for action on the gender pay gap. Campaigners point out that the government introduced a new junior doctors contract which its own equality impact assessment said was potentially discriminatory towards those who take career breaks and work part time. The BMA has been reviewing the contract in line with gender pay concerns.

The BMA survey found that younger and junior doctors, medical students and those working longer hours are more likely to suffer from mental ill health.

It also highlighted a lack of adequate support for doctors and strong relationship between the use of alcohol, drugs and self-medications by doctors with current or previous mental health diagnoses – with 62 per cent using them as a coping mechanism. Alcohol, drug use and self-medication were more common in consultants, those working shorter weeks, doctors aged 64 and above, and men.

Meanwhile senior doctors, including consultants and associate specialist and specialty doctors, have been told that new rules on shared parental leave will not apply to them unless they accept restrictions on how redundancy payments are calculated. The changes, meant to encourage greater equality and reduce the gender pay gap, include enhanced pay for those taking SPL and allow junior doctors who have not accrued 26 weeks of continuous employment with their employers to qualify. The BMA has written to Matt Hancock expressing their concerns.

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