Low morale could put patients at risk, warns GMC

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A ‘state of unease’ among doctors in the UK could be putting patients at risk, warns the General Medical Council (GMC).

In its annual report into the state of medical education and practice in the UK, the GMC says many health services are struggling to meet increased patient demand, due in part to up to 8 years of ‘severely constrained’ healthcare funding and the ‘fragility’ of social care services.

It says levels of stress, depression and anxiety among doctors appear to be higher than before, and warns that the alienation following the dispute between junior doctors and the Department of Health ‘should cause everyone to pause and reflect’.

The report found that almost 600 fewer doctors went on to specialty training in 2015 following their two post-graduate foundation years. Work-life balance was cited by 86.5% of doctors as the main reason for taking a break, with 47% of these saying they had burnout from their clinical placements.

Conservative MP Dr Dan Poulter, the former health minister who works part-time as a doctor, told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that morale is at its ‘lowest point’ in years.

He said training often comes second to meeting rising patient demand, with rota gaps and a lack of middle-grade level doctors contributing to the pressure.

‘If we neglect doctors’ training then that is something that is going to manifest in difficulties with patient care,’ he said.

NHS Employers welcomed the report and said it highlighted the need for skilled foreign workers in the NHS.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the report shows doctors in the UK are providing a standard of care that is ‘among the best in the world’, and reiterated its commitment to invest £10 billion in the NHS.