Surge in number of medics suffering from depression and stress
The Practitioner Health Matters Programme found that non-consultant hospital doctors, consultants and GPs made up 75% of new referrals.
The number of doctors and health professionals suffering from depression, anxiety and stress has jumped by 60% in a year, a report has revealed.
The Practitioner Health Matters Programme (PHMP), which was set up in September 2015, provides confidential treatment services for medics who have mental health or addiction issues.
The programme has seen a huge increase in the number of health professionals seeking help for depression, stress and burnout, dealing with 75 new cases last year.
In its third annual report, the PHMP found that non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHD), consultants and GPs made up 75% of new referrals to the programme, which is open to the country’s 25,000 doctors, pharmacists and dentists.
Dr Ide Delargy, clinical lead for the PHMP, said the significant rise in numbers highlighted the “huge pressures” health professionals are under.
She said the programme, which has treated more than 200 health practitioners to date, has helped prevent both personal and professional catastrophes.
One NCHD admitted during her initial assessment that she had not slept for 10 days, was not eating and felt suicidal.
Dr Delargy said this doctor’s working conditions, the relentless demands of the service, her sense of isolation and lack of sleep had led to her having suicidal thoughts.
“We are asking health professionals, particularly young NCHDs, to be the best they can be while at the same time placing them in extremely difficult work environments and asking them to fulfil a challenging role – and all this very often while sleep-deprived,” Dr Delargy said.
“Despite the fact that these are some of our most resilient people, we shouldn’t be surprised when that resilience sometimes breaks down. When this doctor presented to us, we signed her off work immediately and put her on medication as she was very agitated.
“Her recovery was slow but, with the support of her family and her hospital, she returned to work on a phased basis and is now back at full health and working full-time.”
Despite the increase in overall numbers, there was a noticeable drop in the number of pharmacists using the service last year – from nine to four.
The number of dentists increased from two to 11.
In addition to the 75 new cases, 26 professionals who had presented in previous years continued to receive treatment.
According to the report, 47 practitioners are being treated for stress, anxiety and burnout, while 37 cases relate to substance use, and 17 have significant mental health issues.
More women presented than men during 2018 – 43 versus 32 – while the highest number of registrations was in the 35 to 49 (30) and 25 to 34 (26) age cohorts.
Change has to happen if the escalating reports of stress and burnout are to be tackled Hugh Kane, PHMP
PHMP chairman Hugh Kane said health professionals can often be slower to come forward with health or addiction issues due to shame, stigma or fears of reputational damage.
“Confidentiality is of paramount importance and will be maintained as long as the practitioner is not an immediate risk to themselves or others,” he said.
“We want to raise awareness of the programme, we want to raise awareness of the issues which are troubling for practitioners and we want to raise awareness of the personality traits which can exacerbate these difficulties.
“That is why it is so important for policymakers, employers, human resource managers and training bodies to draw on and learn from our experience.
“Change has to happen if the escalating reports of stress and burnout are to be tackled.”