Is there a crisis in the mental health and wellbeing of our doctors?

Recent reports about junior doctors in crisis coupled with Professor Appleby’s research on reducing stress for doctors undergoing a GMC investigation, highlights the problem of how best to assist doctors with mental health stresses.

In 2017 Sophie Spooner, a young doctor, took her own life. Her death came only two months after a complaint had been made about her.

In the same year, Dr Richard Harding also took his own life. A serious complaint had been made about him to the General Medical Council. He was eventually cleared but the stress had taken its toll.

Medical Director of NHS Practitioner Health Programme [PHP] Dr Clare Gerada states: “Doctors are at an incredibly high risk for mental illness… Female doctors have up to four times the risk of suicide in comparison to people in the general population.”

According to Dr Gerada one of the biggest issues is the effect on doctors from complaints made by the public.

The GMC say they have majorly reformed its processes and ensure vulnerable doctors are supported.

All healthcare regulators are trying to slimline their processes, emphasise local resolution and encourage early engagement but will this make it any easier on doctors facing investigation.

In my view these changes will have little impact within the support and engagement of employers or without a change in culture within the regulators themselves.

Their focus is quite rightly on protecting the public, but any consideration of the doctor’s health and wellbeing comes a very poor second.