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MDDUS joins campaign for better mental health care for doctors

17 May 2016

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The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) has thrown its full support behind the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund’s (RMBF) campaign to supported stressed doctors.

The RMBF’s What’s up doc? campaign raises awareness of the need to offer vital support to doctors.

The campaign also saw the development of a free online guide, The Vital Signs, which highlights common stressful trigger points for doctors and where they can get help.

At an RMBF roundtable on April 8,Dr John Holden, joint head of the MDDUS medical division, said:“Some doctors find it difficult to face up to their own health problems and we welcome the opportunity to work with the RMBF and fully support their work in raising awareness and highlighting the importance of care and support that is available.

“At MDDUS, we have encountered a growing number of cases involving doctors who have been subject to complaints or fitness to practise proceedings relating to mistakes or actions as a result of their health problems.”

He added: “While doctors are caring for patients, they can sometimes neglect to care for themselves. From our experience, seeking help early can make all the difference for those who face these problems.

“Burnout or stress can affect a doctor’s judgment, concentration and productivity. All of which can lead to mistakes in dealing with patient care.”

A survey by the RMBF found that more than 80% of doctors know of other doctors experiencing mental health issues.

The survey also revealed that 84% of doctors are unlikely to reach out for fear of discrimination or stigma from colleagues.

Dr Holden emphasised that speaking to a colleague or their own GP about mental health issues should not be seen as a sign of weakness for doctors.

Steve Crone, RMBF’s chief executive, said he was “delighted” to receive the support of MDDUS for RMBF’s campaign.

“These are the professionals who work tirelessly to support us in our times of need,” said Crone.

“I would urge any doctor in difficulty to reach out – no one should feel too proud or ashamed to ask for help. Every year the RMBF supports hundreds of doctors and their families who are struggling with financial concerns, ill health or addiction. We would like even more people to know we are here to offer confidential help.”

The debate, which aimed to explore ways of supporting doctors suffering from stress and burnout, also included Professor Maureen Baker, chair of RCGP council, and Professor Parveen Kumar, president of RMBF.

MDDUS has previously supported the General Medical Council effort to make its fitness to practise process more sensitive to the needs of vulnerable doctors, as well as NHS England’s pledge to spend £16 million on specialist mental health services to reduce stress levels and to improve GP retention.