Northern Ireland news

70% of NI doctors ‘anxious' about the coming months

 A senior doctor has warned that many of his colleagues feel anxious about the coming months as the second surge of coronavirus grips Northern Ireland.
Rebecca Black, PA

 

A senior doctor has warned that many of his colleagues feel anxious about the coming months as the second surge of coronavirus grips Northern Ireland.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said a survey of its members found that half of doctors say their mental health is worse now than before the pandemic.

More than 70% of BMA members said they are anxious about the coming months.

The survey also found that 63% of respondents are more fatigued than normal, 70% say they are having to do additional work to cover staffing and service gaps while 51% say their morale is low.

Dr Tom Black, BMA Northern Ireland council chair, said the findings paint a “worrying picture” about the wellbeing of frontline medics.

“Doctors, along with their colleagues across the health and social care system, responded quickly and selflessly to the challenges of the first surge of this pandemic,” he said.

“But these survey results tell us this has come at a personal cost of increasing levels of work-related depression, stress, anxiety and burnout across both primary and secondary care.”

The survey found that the three biggest concerns doctors raised are staffing shortages (83%), how non-Covid patient care will be affected by the pandemic (63%) and how their own personal health and wellbeing is being affected (62%).

Dr Black said doctors have told him that the second surge of the virus is “by far worse than the first one”.

“There is very real genuine worry among doctors that the system is on the verge of collapse across both primary and secondary care and this worry is reflected in these survey results,” he said.

“Our hospitals are at capacity or nearing capacity.

“We didn’t have enough doctors or nurses prior to Covid-19 and now isolation, illness and pandemic priorities mean we have even less. Patients with life-threatening non-Covid illnesses are having to wait even longer for treatment and this is totally unacceptable.”

Dr Black added: “The feeling of frustration amongst clinicians as they do their best to care for their patients during this second surge while mindful that winter pressures have yet to take hold cannot be understated.

“This is further compounded by the fact that many of them are concerned about having to make difficult choices on patient care, choices they otherwise would not have had to make had the health and social care system and its workforce not been subject to years of chronic underinvestment.

“Furthermore, many are still waiting on payment for additional hours worked during the first phase, leaving them feeling undervalued and contributing to low morale and leading them to consider reducing their hours in the coming months which is the last thing we need.

“The Executive owe it to frontline health service staff and to the sick and vulnerable these staff care for – to do everything in their power to support our health service over the coming months.

“If we continue the way we are, while this virus is still in the community, there will be no health service left to save.”

418 doctors from across Northern Ireland responded to the survey which was carried out between October 20-22, 2020.

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