In 2018, the General Medical Council (GMC) asked Professor Michael West and Dame Denise Coia to carry out a UK-wide review into the factors which impact on the mental health and wellbeing of medical students and doctors.

The review found that many individual employers and clinical teams are already implementing local solutions to address issues affecting the health and wellbeing of doctors. Professor West and Dame Denise believe that health services could be a ‘model for the world’ in how to develop workplace cultures that support doctors’ core work needs if these solutions were consistently applied.

Recommendations from the report include 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 GMC has accepted the recommendations made and pledged to work with other leaders to help introduce them.

Commenting, Professor Derek Bell OBE, President of The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said:

This College has led on work to improve the medical community’s understanding of doctors’ working environment, which we are pleased to now see included in the GMC’s National Training Surveys.

We welcome this report and fully support its recommendations. We agree that doctors’ rotas should be improved, including standardised rota designs – something that we have been calling for over a number of years.

We believe that this can help prevent rota gaps, enabling doctors and multi-disciplinary teams to work at full capacity to the benefit of patients. Medical rotas should be available six weeks in advance at a minimum, to allow doctors to plan their professional and personal lives.

Alongside this, we have been calling for better rest facilities and food standards for doctors. We are pleased that the report has recommended a minimum standard in that regard. Medical staff should not have to walk for mile to find a decent cup of coffee or something healthy to eat on nightshift.

An area that the NHS must improve on is workplace culture. We agree that doctors must have a greater say in the culture of their workplaces. A better workplace culture leads to happier medical staff, concentrating fully on the matter at hand – ensuring the best quality care for their patients.

Progress on these recommendations must be made sooner rather than later. While the demand on services may be a challenge, that should not be used as an excuse to avoid urgent action to implement the changes. The wellbeing of our doctors cannot wait.

Paul Gillen

Contact: Paul Gillen 0131 247 3658