The Medical Protection Sociey (MPS) has urged the Government and NHS to plan ahead for the mental wellbeing support doctors will require after the pandemic.
Warning that without this, swathes will either leave the profession or suffer in silence with ‘psychological injuries’, the MPS is specifically calling for specialist support for those with PTSD.
The organisation, which supports over 300,000 healthcare professionals worldwide, added that there must be measures to ensure the system has capacity so those needing treatment or time to recuperate can be supported without adding to staff shortages.
It also stressed the importance of plans being backed up by central Government investment to maintain and expand local initiatives such as counselling services.
Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, medicolegal lead (risk prevention) at MPS, said: ‘Adrenaline will still be carrying many healthcare workers through this pandemic and helping them to cope despite the exhaustion and tragedy they may be facing. It is when the crisis truly recedes and there is time to reflect that the accumulated stress and trauma may surface – this is the time doctors will be most at risk and need support.
‘The Government, NHS and private healthcare providers should be planning for this time now.
‘Some will experience grief or moral injury, some may have unresolved anger over issues such as PPE supply, or distress and fear of reprisal at being unable to treat patients with non Covid-19 conditions. Others may suffer with PTSD, and many are at risk of burnout against a backdrop of an already burntout workforce. A nationwide funded plan will ensure those doctors who need specialist support can access it when they need it most.
‘If we don’t act now many doctors will become burnt out and disillusioned or suffer in silence with chronic psychological injuries – both of which put the safety of themselves and their patients at risk. Many others may sadly choose to leave the profession.’
MPS also cited the ‘significant referral backlog’ that is arising as a result of Covid-19.
This comes as its recent survey showed that a fifth of doctors feel their mental wellbeing is worse compared to two weeks before the survey. Concern for the health of family and friends (50%), the health of patients (33%) and their own health (30%) were cited as having the most impact on doctors’ mental wellbeing.