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Mental health can affect anyone, including health professionals

Written by Katherine Baterip, Compliance Support

It is estimated that 1 in 4 people in the UK are affected by conditions like stress, anxiety and depression each year1, and it is understood to be much higher among healthcare workers2, therefore it is now more important than ever to talk about mental health.

Within the general population, mental illness is an increasing issue. In a recent article, 1 in 3 sick notes issued to patients are due to mental health, with 1 in 5 then signed off for over three months. Focusing on the medical sector, one of the most common reasons for a Locum Insurance claim is due to mental health and burnout. According to MIAB’s internal data, the average cost of a Locum Insurance claim for stress is £22,200 with an average pay out over 129 days.

Mental health can dramatically impact a GP’s life, with studies also showing that it can have a negative impact on their patients4. Speaking to Louise Hall, a PhD student at Leeds University, we asked her if based on a current study she is working on, whether there is a relationship between a GP’s wellbeing and patient care:

“Discussions with GPs during our focus groups concluded that GPs do perceive that their wellbeing and levels of burnout can have consequences for both the quality of care, and patient safety. For example, they voiced that poor wellbeing and/or burnout could result in displaying poorer listening skills, which could have the potential to result in a missed diagnosis. Recent findings from our online survey of GPs in England has found further quantitative evidence for the links between workload, burnout, wellbeing and patient safety.

Although mental health issues are common, there still seems to be a stigma attached to it, which can sometimes prevent the individual from seeking the help that they need. This is expected to be even more difficult among healthcare professionals where there is a fear that their colleagues or patients may question their ability to practice sufficient care if they have an issue with their mental health5. This stigma needs to be addressed, as even though 1 in 4 of us will suffer with our mental health each year, a majority of people including healthcare professionals are still capable of continuing with their work and having successful careers whilst receiving the necessary treatment.

As well as the many things that can trigger mental health issues, health workers also have the added pressure of their career. The most common reasons among GPs struggling with their mental health are practice meltdowns, followed by CQC inspections, young Locum GPs struggling with workloads, and GPs dealing with life events and addictions. These issues accounted for 1 in 10 GPs taking time off due to work-related stress in the past year6.

So how can you help towards ensuring not only the patients receive the highest level of care possible, but also practitioners?

Knowing the signs of burnout, for yourself and your colleagues, could help to identify a problem before it gets out of hand. An article from Wessex LMC gives a list of some common signs such as; exhaustion, lack of motivation in anything previously enjoyed, not taking care of yourself in day to day life, experiencing high levels of frustration, and possibly physical illness. If you feel you may be suffering from these symptoms, The British Medical Association (BMA) have a confidential questionnaire to help identify if you are at risk of burnout.

Practice Business identifies some of the main causes of stress and burnout among healthcare professionals and how to help with preventing burnout. Although it is encouraged you seek help from your GP, if for any reason you are unable to visit a health professional, you can still try to reduce the symptoms by practicing self-care, look after your physical health, make time for a social life, and take part in therapeutic activities7.

Online, you can find a variety of campaigns, programmes and charities focused entirely on helping healthcare professionals with their mental health. Social media sites have a large number of accounts providing support. Here is a list of contacts you may find helpful:

The Practitioner Health Programme is an award-winning, free and confidential NHS service for doctors and dentists with issues relating to a mental or physical health concern if you are based in, or able to attend appointments, in London. GMC and GDC registered doctors and dentists are able to self-refer for an assessment and up to four sessions of treatment.

#&me is an online campaign by the Doctor’s Support Network working alongside the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, encouraging senior healthcare professionals to informally self identify as having experienced a mental health condition in the past to tackle the stigma.

IPRS health provide a variety of psychological services in a way that is most suitable for the individual. Here at MIAB, as part of the terms for the QBE Locum Insurance policy, any claim due to mental health or stress must receive help from IPRS. They have recently been announced Winner of the Rehab Initiative of the Year at the Insurance Post Rehab Awards.

@Samaritans – You can call their helpline on 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org for support.

@MindCharity – Providing support for anyone experiencing a mental health problem.

@AnxietyUK – The UK’s leading charity on anxiety and phobias providing access to therapies and support.

@NHSGPHealth – England-wide confidential NHS health service for GPs and trainees with mental health or addiction issues.

@DocSupportNet – For UK doctors and medical students with mental health concerns, providing peer support to improve mental health.

@Vetmindmatters – Addressing mental health and wellbeing issues in the veterinary professions

@PharmaSupport – The independent charity for pharmacists and their families, former pharmacists, pre-registration trainees and pharmacy students in need.

@Tea_EmpathyNHS – Informal peer support network for any NHS worker. Run by 30 Junior Doctors and Nurses.

Everyone needs to be able to access the mental health treatment they require, including NHS staff, to ensure not only healthcare workers’ wellbeing, but also their patients.

Should you wish to know more about how MIAB can assist, please contact Montrose Bill on 01438 870735 or montrose.bill@miab.co.uk