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MPS fears doctors will ‘suffer in silence’ amid huge referrals backlog  

The Government, HSE and private healthcare providers must work together to improve access to mental wellbeing support for healthcare workers as they go from fighting Covid-19 to tackling a major referrals backlog which “will lead to further exhaustion”, the Medical Protection Society (MPS) said today.

MPS – which supports over 21,000 healthcare professionals in Ireland – said doctors may be experiencing burnout, grief or post traumatic stress disorder due to delivering care amid Covid-19. The Society said healthcare professionals may not have time to seek treatment or recuperate due to the huge backlog of patients who have endured delayed diagnoses following the cancellation of non-urgent care.

The organisation said doctors will carry on because of their sense of duty, but it fears many will become disillusioned or suffer in silence, putting the safety of themselves and their patients at risk.

It called on the Government, HSE and private healthcare providers to provide a centralised ‘one stop shop’ mental wellbeing resource, so a range of existing support and resources can be accessed by all healthcare workers more quickly and easily. 

It said the HSE’s ‘Mind your mental health’ webpage, which provides general advice, could be the basis for something more comprehensive.

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, Medicolegal Lead, Risk Prevention, MPS, said: “Healthcare workers are used to pressure and exhaustion, but those on the Covid-19 frontline will have experienced the biggest health crisis in their careers with countless patients and some family members lost.

“Some will be experiencing grief, some will suffer with PTSD, others may experience moral injury at being unable to treat patients with non Covid-19 conditions, and many are at risk of burnout against a backdrop of an already burnt out workforce.

“They need a range of support and time to recuperate, yet they now face a colossal referral backlog which will lead to further physical and mental exhaustion.  The backlog will have also resulted in delayed diagnoses or treatments for patients with serious conditions, and this will sadly impact on their outcomes. Such situations are devastating for the patients and doctors involved, and may also give rise to medicolegal disputes, claims and investigations creating more distress.

“Doctors will carry on regardless because of their sense of duty and vocation, but they are at great risk of becoming disillusioned or suffering in silence with chronic psychological injuries. Both of which put the safety of themselves and their patients at risk.

“During the height of the Covid-19 crisis in Ireland, we saw how the system can respond swiftly and creatively, and we hope to see the same drive behind mental wellbeing. There are some great resources available by a range of organisations, but they are hard to find – information about these services should be consolidated into a centralised “one stop” mental wellbeing resource so healthcare workers can access the support they need quickly and easily.”

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