Action needed now to support the wellbeing of NHS staff, says senior doctor

Action is needed now to protect the health and wellbeing of NHS staff, says one of Scotland’s most senior doctors.

Professor Jackie Taylor, the President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, has published a three-point plan to keep Scotland’s doctors and health professionals healthy as we reach the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Writing in The Herald, Professor Taylor sets out a three-point plan to ensure that NHS staff can stay healthy and continue to provide the best possible care for patients.

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She’s called for a continuation of the good work that’s been carried out by NHS organisations to instil a “can-do” attitude in the Health Service as it has prepared for the current health crisis, in addition to implementing:

Professor Jackie Taylor.
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- A commitment that new practical measures to protect staff wellbeing in hospitals during the current health crisis will be made permanent. These facilities include new rest rooms for staff and 24-hour catering facilities in hospitals

- The appointment of a National Clinical Lead with responsibility for Wellbeing across NHS Scotland, supported by a structure of non-executive directors on each Health Board accountable for Wellbeing

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- The development of a “Practitioner Health Programme” for Scotland. This would mirror the approach taken by NHS England, which currently operates a free, confidential NHS service for doctors and dentists across England with mental illness and addiction problems

Speaking after the publication of her proposals, Professor Taylor said: “It’s been humbling to watch the outpouring of love from the general public in response to the outstanding work being carried out on a daily basis by doctors and other NHS staff during this crisis.

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"I know that I can speak for us all when I say thank you from the bottom of our hearts for coming together to show your support for essential workers each Thursday evening.

“This exceptional emotional support only underlines how much we are all interconnected. Healthy doctors and improved staff wellbeing improves quality of care, patient safety and patient satisfaction for all. That’s why we must all be concerned about our doctors’ wellbeing.

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Professor continued: “Even before this crisis arose, half of doctors in the UK reported work-related stress, a quarter reported high degrees of burnout, while every three weeks a doctor in the UK commits suicide. Research published last week showed that stress has inevitably increased over the past two months as staff are working in unfamiliar places with different teams, while at the same time dealing with emotionally draining conversations on a daily basis.

“Half of those questioned last week said their mental health had deteriorated during this crisis, while 49 percent have worries about their family’s safety because of a lack of testing and protective equipment. 43 percent are concerned about the ability to ensure that our patients receive high-quality care given the pressure the health service is currently under.

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She added: "We owe it to our staff, not to pay lip service to their health and wellbeing, but to provide them with coordinated and compassionate care that they will require in the aftermath of this pandemic. To do otherwise is to fail them.

“If implemented, the proposals I’ve suggested today would go a long way to embedding the positive changes we’ve seen recently within the NHS, and would ensure that there is a practical solution to support the emotional backing we’ve all received from our patients and the public at large.”

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