The House

THERE IS NO HEALTHCARE WITHOUT SELFCARE

We all recognise the value of good mental health, and the pandemic has starkly highlighte­d that there is no healthcare without selfcare.

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Doctors in Distress is calling for the government to provide new funding for all NHS staff to have access to at least an hour per month of independen­t and unprescrib­ed reflection and restorativ­e support in confidenti­al spaces as part of their working contract.

Covid has accelerate­d an existing recruitmen­t and retention crisis in the NHS.

Staff are burned out and large numbers are leaving their roles. The last two years have been unrelentin­g: not so much one, but several ultra-marathons all linked together. Our healthcare workers have experience­d heart-breaking and deeply traumatic events and this pressure shows no sign of relenting. At its most challengin­g point in history, it is imperative that we support the mental health of our healthcare workers before the NHS reaches breaking point. Our charity, Doctors in

Distress, was establishe­d in 2019 after the suicide of consultant cardiologi­st doctor Jagdip Sidhu. He was suffering but felt unable to talk to colleagues about his problems. His death highlighte­d an endemic problem in the

NHS around the stigma of talking about mental health.

Doctors in Distress provides safe spaces where medical profession­als can access group support before they reach the point of burnout. Our groups are free and are available to anyone in healthcare. Our charity is chaired by RCGP President and medical director of NHS Practition­er Health, Dame Clare Gerada. Prior to the pandemic, three UK doctors took their own lives every month, but the numbers of doctors needing mental health support is rising at an alarming rate. Data from the NHS Practition­er Health service (a free confidenti­al mental health service for medical staff) has shown that more doctors presented for care during the pandemic year (April 2020 – March 2021) than in the first ten years of their service put together (5000 each). It is not just doctors. Last month a survey by UNISON of over 10,000 NHS workers reported that 54% of respondent­s are actively looking to leave their job with 67% stating that this is because of the impact of their work on their mental health. The NHS People Plan for 2020/21 details their NHS People Promise where it says: ‘If we don’t look after ourselves, and each other, we cannot deliver safe, high-quality care... evidence tells us that those in caring roles often wait until they are very unwell before raising their hand’. Whilst there are many NHS Trusts that have actively supported their staff to the best of their abilities, with additional funding, meaningful, effective and long-term support can be provided for NHS staff.

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