HALF of all doctors in the north are at risk of burnout with most braced for a surge in pressure on the health system on the back of the Christmas relaxation period, according to the new survey.
Almost three quarters of the 359 doctors who took part in the British Medical Association (BMA) research, said they were ‘extremely concerned’ over the potential impact of the relaxation on Covid-19 restrictions, with 66 per cent anticipating a significant increase in workloads.
The survey was carried out over December 15-17, just before the executive announced a new set of tougher post-Christmas restrictions on Thursday.
As of yesterday afternoon, there are still no plans for Stormont to follow authorities in England, Scotland and Wales in cutting the Christmas relaxation period from five days to one.
Two-thirds of Northern Ireland doctors have already reported higher levels of fatigue and exhaustion than normal, the BMA reported.
Just more than half (53 per cent) said they are currently suffering either depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, emotional distress or another mental health condition made worse by their work during the pandemic.
Some 51 per cent said they now plan to work fewer hours in 2021.
“These answers tell us that doctors have a genuinely heightened sense of worry at what lies ahead after Christmas in terms of patient care and service delivery,” said Dr John Woods, BMA’s Northern Ireland consultants committee chair.
“Therefore, it is imperative on us all to do what we can to control the spread of this virus within our communities over the Christmas period and before the new lockdown period takes effect from Boxing Day.
“Nearly 90 per cent of doctors told us that maintaining social distancing and wearing facemasks where social distancing is not possible should be adhered to over Christmas. Nearly 80 per cent advised to mix with the absolute minimum number of family; over 78 per cent advised avoiding visits to clinically vulnerable people. These are all effective ways that can help limit virus transmission and ease subsequent pressures on frontline health service staff further on down the line.”
The survey also highlighted the anger and frustration prevalent within the medical profession on the ability to treat non-Covid cases.
More than 70 per cent said they have been unable to provide a full range of services to non-Covid patients in the run-up to Christmas.
Just under 90 per cent said they felt uneasy at being unable to provide care to a satisfactory standard. Almost half said the situation had deteriorated since October.
The same number admitted they were ‘angry’ at the situation and more than one-in-four admitted to being ‘distressed’.
“Elective care waiting lists now as bad as they have ever been and the feeling of frustration amongst clinicians at this situation is clearly laid bare in these survey findings,” said Dr Woods.
“We now need to make sure that there is clear planning for the next stages of the pandemic and clear messaging to the public as to why these restrictions are necessary.
“Our survey told us that over half of doctors who responded were thinking of reducing their hours.”
Dr Woods called for the executive to prioritise and finance total reconfiguration of the health service in line with the Health and Wellbeing 2026 plan.
The BMA has also called for “proper monitoring” of clinical and medical workforce levels to ensure timely and proactive action can be taken.
“Anything less would be an insult to the work and sacrifices health care staff have made throughout this pandemic and, most importantly, to all the lives that have been lost,” he added.
— to www.irishnews.com