Doctors ‘running on empty’ says RCP

The Royal College of Physicians has warned that physicians who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic are now in urgent need of rest and recuperation.

According to their latest coronavirus survey, 49 per cent of the UK’s doctors are not getting enough sleep, as the emotional and physical toll of working through a global pandemic for almost a year has left doctors exhausted and in desperate need of rest.

London’s clinicians were the worst affected, with only 42 per cent getting the amount of sleep they need all or most of the time, and 11 per cent saying they never get the amount of sleep they need, compared to eight per cent for doctors elsewhere in the UK.

While morale appears to have slightly improved, with only 28 per cent of doctors feeling worried this month compared to 48 per cent last month, a large proportion (63 per cent) still felt tired or exhausted and 27 per cent said they felt demoralised.

Worryingly, 63 per cent of doctors said that there had been no discussion in their organisation about timetabled time off to recuperate.

The RCP believes that staff must be given time off to rest and recover from the pressure of the pandemic so they are ready to face the next challenge of tackling pent-up demand of non-coronavirus care.

Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “Doctors are running on empty. This has been the hardest year many of us have ever faced and, while physicians have shown incredible strength and resilience throughout the pandemic, they and their colleagues can’t keep working this way forever.

“Plans for tackling the backlog of non-Covid-19 care must recognise that recovery of NHS services includes the recovery of NHS staff. It’s important that healthcare workers take time off, so it is worrying to see so many physicians have not had this conversation at their place of work.

“We know many of the pressures felt throughout the pandemic have stemmed from workforce pressures, so while in the long-term we need to double the number of medical school places, what we can do for now is agree to restart the NHS in a way that takes account of the emotional and physical toll of the pandemic so colleagues can rest and recuperate.”