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Nurses’ well-being: ‘burnout’ too gentle a term for mental distress

Burnout is not a strong enough term to describe the severe mental distress nurses and other NHS staff are experiencing, says a doctor who has led efforts to improve care for health professionals.

Medical director of the NHS Practitioner Health service Dame Clare Gerada told MPs radical action was needed to improve the mental well-being of NHS staff.

She said nurses and other healthcare staff should be entitled to one hour of paid reflective time per month to be written into NHS employees’ contracts, alongside mentoring, careers advice and leadership training built in throughout people’s careers.

Dr Gerada was among senior clinicians who gave evidence this week to the Health and Social Care Committee, which is looking at issues around recruitment and retention of staff.

She told the committee the term ‘burnout’ simply did not cover the level of stress and mental anguish experienced by NHS workers. ‘Burnout is too gentle a term for the mental distress that is going on amongst our workforce,’ she said.

High suicide rates among nurses and doctors, high levels of bullying and staff being sacked because they have long-COVID are all signs the health service is failing to look after its employees, she said.

‘The symptoms we have got are the symptoms of an organisation that is unable to care for its workforce in the way that it should be caring,’ she said.

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Source: Nursing Standard, 25 March 2022


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