Four in 10 doctors (41%) working on the frontline of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic are experiencing poor mental health, including anxiety, depression and burnout, that relates to, or has been made worse by, their work.
According to the British Medical Association – which has been closely monitoring the health and wellbeing of heathcare staff during the pandemic – long working hours, worries about PPE, fears about contracting the coronavirus and losing such a high number of patients to the virus have had a significant impact on their mental wellbeing over the past few months.
Its latest tracker survey, which received around 7,000 responses from doctors, found 29% said a mental health condition they had had got worse during the pandemic.
One doctor said: “I feel I have aged over the past three months, with variable levels of anxiety and stress; it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, whilst trying to run a practice and protect my staff.”
Others described feeling worried about bringing the virus home to their families and feeling frequently tearful about those who have lost their lives.
“It’s difficult to get over watching people slip away without physical contact with their loved ones… it’s painful. Saying that we tried our best when you know the best won’t be good enough is excruciating,” said one respondent.
The BMA’s wellbeing support services had seen a 40% increase in use over the past three months, including from those who felt anxious about facing unknown situations at work.
The organisation has called for more mental health and wellbeing support for doctors and a long-term strategy that protects and maintains the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of the NHS.
“This week has seen a sea-change with doctors coming forward in an outpouring of heart-breaking accounts that lay bare the heavy toll that Covid-19 has had on our mental health and wellbeing,” said Dr David Wrigley, BMA council deputy chair and wellbeing lead.
“Doctors are understandably anxious about their own health and the risks posed to their loved ones. This is exacerbated over concerns that a second peak may be just around the corner.
“Throughout this pandemic doctors and healthcare workers have been painted as heroes – and the efforts that they have gone to in caring for their patients is certainly heroic. But they are not superhuman. They need to feel able to seek help and that help must be readily available.”