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Trainees and locums least likely to disclose mental health issues

A survey of UK doctors has found trainees and locums are least likely to disclose mental health issues in the workplace.

Researchers from Cardiff University found that less than half of the two groups would disclose an issue, raising concerns about their access to appropriate support.

The paper suggested this may be down to concerns about being labelled, concerns over confidentiality and lack of knowledge about support available. 

Although GPs were somewhat more likely to be open about having a mental health issue – the report found there was a mismatch between what doctors ‘think they would do’ and what they ‘actually do’ when they become unwell.

The study found:

  • Among GPs without previous experience of mental health issues, 84% thought they would disclose it
  • But among GPs who had experienced mental health issues, only 39% had disclosed it
  • Combining both groups, 61% of GPs said they would disclose or had disclosed mental health issues (compared to 62% of consultants, 51% of trainees and 49% of locums).

The paper, published in Occupational Medicine, concluded that ’[f]or all doctors, regardless of role, this study found that what they think they would do is different to what they actually do when they become unwell’.

It added: ’Trainees, staff and associate speciality doctors and locums appeared most vulnerable, being reluctant to disclose mental ill health. Doctors continued to have concerns about disclosure and a lack of care pathways was evident.

‘Concerns about being labelled, confidentiality and not understanding the support structures available were identified as key obstacles to disclosure. Addressing obstacles and enablers is imperative to shape future interventions.’

The survey responses also suggested that English doctors are more likely to suffer mental health issues than doctors in the devolved health administrations.

Including all types of doctors, not just GPs, the number who said they had suffered mental health issues was 60% in Wales, 45% in Scotland, 55% in Northern Ireland and 82% in England.


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