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Doctors’ health in long-term decline, finds study



The stresses and strains at work are affecting doctors more than other professions, a study has found.

Researchers found that there was a 6% average annual increase in work-related ill health for doctors between 2001 and 2014.

The study, carried out at Manchester University’s Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, looked at data from the Health and Occupation Research (THOR) Network, which includes data on cases referred to occupational physicians.

The research, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that rates of work-related ill health and work-related mental ill health are increasing for all doctors, with women the hardest hit.

During the same time period, nurses, ambulance staff and social workers actually saw instances of work-related ill health decline, whilst levels of work-related mental ill health saw no significant change.

The paper said the increase in ill health among doctors could be due to ‘a number of reasons that may affect doctors as a profession such as poor training in management skills, work overload in both clinical and non-clinical duties, staff shortages, perceived lack of control and feedback especially when it comes to patient care, high responsibility, lack of support, poor work-life balance and pressures on continuing professional development’.

The report’s authors called for more work to identify the underlying causes to help find ways to tackle them.

‘This in turn could contribute to improving and maintaining excellent patient care and safety in the long term,’ they said.

A study from mental health charity Mind last year revealed that just over half of GPs and primary care staff report that workplace stress has caused them to become physically ill.

According to the medical director of the national GP mental health support proramme, the NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP), ‘practice meltdown’ is the biggest driver for GP’s seeking help with mental health issues.