Almost two out of three trainee anaesthetists say their physical or mental health is being damaged because of NHS pressures.
Many are sobusy that they go through entire shifts without eating or drinking, while others suffer stress, burnout, exhaustion and sleeping problems.
A survey of 2,300 trainee anaesthetists finds that 85% are at risk of becoming burned out.
Respondents identified long hours, fears about patient safety, the disruption of working night shifts and long commutes to their hospital as key reasons for their growing fatigue and disillusionment.
The Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) survey shows that 64% of trainees felt their job had affected their physical health and 61% their mental health.
Dr Liam Brennan, the RCoA’s president, said: “I am shocked by some of the results of this survey. The reports of deteriorating physical and mental health and burnout in doctors at the beginning of their career is a major concern. It is clear that it is the beleaguered system which is under intense pressure that is the cause of these worrying findings.”
Sixty two per cent had gone through a shift in the last month without a meal and 75% had not had adequate hydration while at work.
Almost all (95%) stay on after their shift, 68% had stayed up to two hours longer in the last month, and 28% had done more than two hours unpaid overtime at least once. Staff shortages mean that trainees are typically being asked to work six extra shifts a month to cover for gaps in rotas, the survey found.
Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said: “These findings echo many of our own recent National Training Survey results, and raise concerns not just for trainees but also for patients and employers. The pressure the NHS is under is placing doctors under greater stress, as well as eroding time for training, development and the recuperation necessary to remain resilient.
“Unless trainees are given the time needed to develop their knowledge and skills then we risk harm to all doctors, especially those training to be the senior doctors of the future, as well as the patients they care for.”