A concerning study reported in today’s Guardian newspaper indicates that “one in four NHS doctors is tired to the point of impairment”.
This study was of a relatively small sample size (532 respondents out of just under 275,000 doctors with a licence to practise), but it feeds into a growing bank of evidence that doctors are working in unsustainably poor conditions. For example, in its annual ‘State of Medical Education and Practice‘ report published last month, the GMC noted that its “research this year paints a worrying picture of rising burnout, declining job satisfaction and growing workloads against 2020 levels”.
The GMC has called for employers to continue “putting initiatives to improve working environments front and centre of their plans”. However, we must be realistic about the fact that funding for recruitment and retention, more so than any other initiative, is likely to be the most important factor in improving doctors’ working conditions and levels of exhaustion. Unless meaningful change in this regard happens soon, we appear to be heading for a medical workforce disaster, with the GMC reporting that “23% of doctors said they are planning to leave the profession”.
From my perspective as a professional discipline lawyer, one obvious way in which we can reduce the pressure on doctors is by ensuring that they are not subject to misconceived MHPS* or fitness to practise investigations. Meritless and distressing investigations and allegations continue to be a significant problem despite improvements by NHS Trusts and the GMC in the wake of crisis points such as the Horsfall inquiry, Dr Bawa-Garba case and death of nurse Amin Abdullah.
Please contact me if you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised by this post.
*MHPS refers to Maintaining High Professional Standards in the Modern NHS, the framework for managing concerns about doctors in the NHS.