Hospital Dr News

Trusts need to develop compassionate leadership models to improve doctor wellbeing

NHS employers need to address the wellbeing of doctors faced with higher workloads, whose own health impacts on patient care.

That’s the conclusion of the The Caring for doctors, Caring for patients report, commissioned by the GMC.

Organisational psychologist Professor Michael West and clinical psychiatrist Dame Denise Coia examined the root causes of poor wellbeing, and offered solutions in both primary and secondary care.

Recommendations include compassionate leadership models giving doctors more say over the culture of their workplaces, adopting minimum standards of food and rest facilities, and standardising rota designs which take account of workload and available staff.

The review found many individual employers and clinical teams are already implementing local solutions to address issues affecting the health and wellbeing of doctors.

Other recommendations for health service leaders include improvements to team-working, culture and leadership, and workloads. The GMC has accepted the recommendations and pledged to work with other leaders to help introduce them.

Professor West said: “We can’t simply go on the way we are, loading more responsibility onto doctors already struggling to cope. Where workloads are excessive, patient care suffers.

“We heard some astonishing stories, of doctors being denied leave for a relative’s funeral and sleeping in their car, too exhausted to drive home from a shift.

“But we also saw examples of good practice and compassionate leadership; places where staff engagement works well, and ideas are listened to and acted on. It’s these that should be shared and replicated more widely.”

The report says creating supportive, safe and inclusive working environments is key, and that doctors – in common with all workers – have an ‘ABC of core needs’ if they are to remain well and stay motivated while at work:

  • Autonomy/control – the need to have control over work lives and to act consistently with work and life values.
  • Belonging – the need to be connected to, cared for and caring of others in the workplace, and to feel valued, respected and supported.
  • Competence – the need to experience effectiveness and deliver valued outcomes, such as high-quality care.
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