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COVID-19: Working in medicine is “pretty awful” right now, says college president

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The second wave of COVID-19 has put doctors under huge pressure, the Royal College of Physicians has warned, as two thirds of physicians report feeling tired or exhausted.

A survey of 25 500 members of the college from across the UK, conducted on 2 November, received 1890 responses. It found that two thirds (64%, 931) felt tired or exhausted, 48% (687) felt worried, and just under a third (29%, 424) felt demoralised. Almost a fifth (19%, 280) said they have sought informal mental health support, such as speaking to colleagues or friends, during the pandemic. Just 10% (155) said they had sought formal mental health support from either their employer, GP, or external services.

College president Andrew Goddard said he was concerned about the mental health of doctors, “There is no way to dress it up—it is pretty awful at the moment in the world of medicine. Hospital admissions are at the highest ever level, staff are exhausted, and although there is light at the end of the tunnel, it seems a long way away.”

He said that before the pandemic, few physicians would have expected to need formal mental health support during their career.

After the pandemic, staff will be in desperate need of a break, Goddard said, and will need specific time away if they’re to be at their best. “Doctors have demonstrated remarkable resilience throughout the pandemic, working under the most challenging conditions the NHS has ever faced, but they can’t continue working this way forever,” he said.

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Source: The BMJ, 21 January 2021

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