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A new study commissioned and funded by the Louise Tebboth Foundation has revealed that UK doctors are at greater risk of work-related stress, burnout and depression and anxiety than the general population. The incidence of suicide, especially among women doctors and for GPs and trainees, is also comparatively high.
The report, entitled ‘What could make a difference to the mental health of UK doctors?’ and published in conjunction with the Society for Occupational Medicine, finds that the incidence of mental health problems among doctors is increasing alongside the growing demands and diminishing resources experienced in the healthcare sector. GPs, trainee and junior doctors appear to be particularly vulnerable, experiencing distress and burnout early in their career. The stigma associated with disclosing mental health problems and ‘a failure to cope’ revealed in the report mean that many doctors are reluctant to seek help as they fear sanctions and even job loss.
The report, carried out by Professor Gail Kinman of the University of Bedfordshire and Dr Kevin Teoh of Birkbeck University of London, reviewed research on the mental health of doctors, the factors that increased the risk of poor mental health, and the implications for their own wellbeing and that of their patients. Professor Kinman commented: “The findings of our report are alarming. The poor mental health evident among UK doctors and the implications for themselves and their patients should be of grave concern to all healthcare stakeholders. Action is urgently required to address a working environment that can be toxic to health.” Dr Teoh added: “It is crucial to provide doctors with more support from recruitment to retirement and develop a culture that challenges the mental health stigma and encourages help seeking.”
Dr Alex Freeman, the LTF Chair, said: “This report should be of interest to policy makers, employers, and others who have a responsibility for doctors’ mental health. Whilst initiatives to treat and support doctors who are struggling are to be welcomed, what is needed is to develop a healthy working environment. Prevention should be taken seriously, at all stages of a doctor’s career. The level of suicide in the profession is of major concern, and support for the bereaved workplace affected by such suicides is lacking. The concerns identified in the report must be taken seriously.
For this reason we welcome the announcement made yesterday by NHS chief Simon Stevens that there will be national funding for a new mental health support scheme which will cover all doctors working in the NHS. The scheme will cover approximately 110,000 more doctors in addition to those already supported.
We are delighted to announce a new promotional short film on the role and purpose of the LTF, that we will be publicising at the Royal College of GPs Annual Conference this week. Catch a sneak preview of it on our You Tube channel here
A huge thanks from all of us at the LTF to Dr Emily Gray and her colleagues at North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple, North Devon. The Doctors’ Mess staged a ‘Doctors Revue Comedy Musical titled ‘Hairy Porter and the Prisoner of Medicine’ to highlight the issue of doctors mental health. In the process they managed to raise a whopping £842.50 for the charity. We really do appreciate the efforts of everybody involved and are glad that it looks as though they all had a lot of a fun along the way!
The Louise Tebboth Foundation (LTF) is delighted to be able to announce the award of its first significant grant to promote the mental well-being of doctors. The Foundation, working in conjunction with the NHS Practitioner Health Programme and NHS GP Health Service, has agreed to provide £10,000 over two years to support the establishment and ongoing activities of the new NHS Practitioner Volunteer and User Voices Network.
The Network will bring doctors at varying stages of recovery from mental illness and addiction together with service providers, commissioners and charitable organisations in order to give voice to the experiences of the practitioner-patients, enable them to help shape the development of support services, raise awareness of the key issues affecting the management, support and processes for doctors who become unwell and to explore the gaps in service provision and barriers to seeking help.
Dr Clare Gerada, Medical Director of the Practitioner Health Programme, welcomed news of the award, saying “The Foundation’s generous and significant contribution to support the Volunteer Network is greatly appreciated and we look forward to working closely with the LTF to progress this very important work improving the experience of doctors with mental health and addiction issues.”
Gary Marson, who founded the LTF in memory of his wife, Louise Tebboth, a London GP who died by suicide in 2015 at the age of 40, commented “I’m absolutely thrilled that after three years hard work establishing the charity we are now in a position to begin to be able to make a positive contribution to the mental wellbeing of medical practitioners. Sadly levels of suicide within the medical profession remain stubbornly high and if we can help in saving the life of even just one doctor it will serve as a wonderful and practical memorial to my amazing wife Louise, enabling her to continue even now to do what she always wanted more than anything else – to help others in need. I would like to thank everybody who has helped us to reach this point for their generous support, not least the friends and family of Joe Kaczmarczyk, a 28-year-old doctor in Manchester who took his life in November 2016.”
WANTED – Volunteers to walk on behalf of the LTF on the Walking out of Darkness events over the course of the coming months. CLASP (Counselling, Life Advice and Suicide Prevention) is organising 10 mile walks in seven locations around England between May and October (London, Nottingham, York, Brighton, Bristol, Norwich and Birmingham). We would love to see supporters of the LTF well represented at each of the events – its a great chance to promote awareness both of the charity and suicide prevention generally while enjoying a walk in some lovely locations. Do please let us know if you intend to take part and raise funds in sponsorship for the LTF! You can find more details of the walks on the link below. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/walking-out-of-darkness-2018…
A huge thank you to everybody at The Village Osteopathy in Timperley, Cheshire for their fantastic fund raising efforts. A recent charity day at the clinic, which included bake sales and raffles, raised an amazing £645 in aid of the LTF. Appropriately the day had a health and wellbeing theme with practitioners on hand to offer guidance and advice. The event was staged in honour of a good friend of the clinic, Dr Joseph Kaczmarczyk, who sadly lost his life in November 2016.
We are delighted to announce that Professor David Haslam CBE, Chair of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, and formerly President and chair of the RCGP, and President of the BMA, has agreed to become a Patron of the LTF, joining Baroness Ilora Finlay of Llandaff in the role.
Professor Haslam, in supporting the objectives of The LTF, said
“Risk factors in medicine should always be taken seriously. High blood pressure carries an increased risk of stroke, and the healthcare professions go out of their way to address it. Being a smoker is the single greatest preventable risk factor of all, and tackling smoking is taken very seriously. And being a doctor increases the risk of stress, of depression, of suicide. Like any risk factor, we need to take it seriously. We need to understand, to listen, to care. We need to understand why colleagues may be reluctant to seek help. Why do we have to be so perfect?
Suicide is always – but always – a tragedy. More than anything, it is a tragedy for the individual concerned, but it is tragic for family, friends, colleagues, and patients. A profession that dedicates itself to caring for others is often remarkably poor at caring for itself. It shouldn’t be seen as being brave for a doctor to admit to being depressed. It should simply be seen as being honest, and a trigger for action.”
A huge thanks to Ela Stachow who is taking part in the City to Summit Challenge in Scotland on 2nd July to raise funds for the LTF – if we tell you that it involves a 13.1 mile run through Edinburgh followed by a 112 mile cycle to Ben Nevis and then a 26.2 mile run to the summit of Ben Nevis we think you’ll agree that she deserves our support! You can sponsor her here:
Would you like to raise funds for doctors at risk of suicide and help confront the stigma of mental ill health? The annual CLASP Walking out of Darkness 10 mile walks take place in Birmingham on 6th May, London on 13th May and Weston Super Mare on 24th June and we would love to be well represented at each event. Details of how to book your place on the walk can be found on the link below and you can easily set up a fundraising page for the LTF on the Every Click website.