Huge numbers of GPs could leave the medical profession, while many will “suffer in silence” as COVID-19 has a lasting impact on the mental wellbeing of doctors, it has been claimed.
The Medical Protection Society (MPS) said that many family doctors are at risk of suffering “psychological injuries”.
It is calling calling for specialist support for doctors, many of whom will could end up with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of dealing with the pandemic, GP reports.
The MPS, which offers legal and other support to over 300,000 healthcare professionals worldwide, added that there must be measures to ensure the system has capacity so those needing treatment or time to recuperate can be supported without adding to staff shortages.
Central Government has pledged investment to maintain and expand local initiatives such as counselling services – but great care must be taken to ensure doctors themselves do not “suffer in silence”.
Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, medicolegal lead (risk prevention) at MPS, said that “adrenaline” will still be carrying many healthcare workers through the pandemic and helping them to cope despite the “exhaustion and tragedy” they may be facing.
Dr Bradshaw said: “It is when the crisis truly recedes and there is time to reflect that the accumulated stress and trauma may surface – this is the time doctors will be most at risk and need support.
“The Government, NHS and private healthcare providers should be planning for this time now.
“Some will experience grief or moral injury, some may have unresolved anger over issues such as PPE supply, or distress and fear of reprisal at being unable to treat patients with non Covid-19 conditions.
“Others may suffer with PTSD, and many are at risk of burnout against a backdrop of an already burntout workforce.”
The MPS is calling for a nationwide-funded plan to ensure those doctors who need specialist support can access it when they need it most.
Dr Bradshaw said: “If we don’t act now many doctors will become burnt out and disillusioned or suffer in silence with chronic psychological injuries – both of which put the safety of themselves and their patients at risk. Many others may sadly choose to leave the profession.”