Hospital doctors call for talks to avert “mass exodus” of burned-out consultants
The Hospital Consultants & Specialists Association, the only union dedicated solely to hospital doctors, has called for urgent talks with ministers and employers - warning of an impending “system-wide collapse” within the National Health Service by a feared “mass exodus” of burned-out consultants.
Trades Union Congress delegates in Brighton unanimously backed the HCSA’s call last week after the association’s own research revealed that a shocking eight in 10 senior hospital doctors are considering early retirement because of workplace stress.
The debate follows HCSA research among 817 senior hospital doctors.
HCSA general secretary Eddie Saville said the government was failing to take the issue seriously despite the findings revealing “a shocking legacy of fatigue, broken relationships and serious illness.”
The causes, he added, were “a workload that sees doctors routinely work beyond their contracted hours, as shrinking resources force them to take on impossible patient caseloads,” “constant restructuring and dysfunctional relationships between staff and management,” and “chronic staff shortages.”
Eddie Saville warned: “Make no mistake. This represents a toxic threat not just to our NHS but to the patients its dedicated workforce serves.
“It takes 19 years of training to become a hospital consultant. This is not a workforce that can be easily replaced.
“The kind of mass exodus suggested by our research demands urgent action if we are to head off a system-wide collapse.
“It does not seem to us that the government is taking the issue seriously.
“Employers and ministers suggest that things are improving. That strategies are in place to boost the well-being and health of NHS staff.
“But it is clear hospital doctors do not agree.
“In fact more than 70 per cent of hospital doctors told us that their work stress had increased over the past 12 months.
“Against a backdrop of yet another reorganisation with the stated aim of delivering seven-day services, we fear that this issue could deliver a knockout blow to the stability of our NHS.”
Urging the government and employers to act, Eddie Saville said: “It’s time to listen to your front-line workers.
“You need to recognise the extent of this threat.”
The full text of the association’s TUC motion on stress, passed unanimously by delegates, is as follows:
“Stress amongst hospital consultants and specialists is a constant reminder of how vulnerable senior public sector worker are on the front line. From continuous battles with waiting time targets in A&E to the funding crisis that is seeing many senior doctors reaching for the exit door to either retire or work overseas, stress amongst talented lifesaving doctors is continuing to impact on our NHS.
Consultant workload has been continuously increasing and the pressure to care for an ever increasing patient caseload is causing some consultants mental health to be impacted. Depression, anxiety and stress are the most prevalent reasons for sickness absence amongst hospital consultants and specialists.
The toxic mix of a stressful workplace combined with a culture of bullying and trying to balance family life can often result in complete burn out for the doctor. The health and well-being of all NHS staff should be a top priority, but time after time NHS organisations either fail to see the signs or do not know what to look for.
Congress believes that stress amongst senior doctors in hospitals is just not taken seriously to the detriment of the doctor and the patients. Congress calls on Government and employers to work with the HCSA to determine a strategy that will safeguard all medical staff in the future.”