Current unrest amongst junior doctors highlights stresses on their mental health – new Swansea University Unit to address

The British Medical Association (BMA) has awarded a prestigious grant to a team at Swansea University Medical School whose specific focus is the study of medical professionals’ mental health and wellbeing.

Andrew GrantResearch at the Unit is being led by Andrew Grant, Professor of Clinical Education at Swansea University Medical School. Professor Grant (pictured) said: “The current industrial unrest affecting English junior doctors brings into focus the many sources of stress that are brought to bear on them through their work.

“This underlines the need for the Unit for the study of doctors’ and medical students’ mental health and wellbeing which we have set up at Swansea University Medical School.

The Joan Dawkins Research Grant, worth £50,000 will help fund research within Swansea University’s new Unit for the study of doctors’ and medical students’ mental health and wellbeing.

After five years in medical school newly qualified doctors undertake a further two years on-the-job Foundation Training, gaining experience in up to six clinical specialisms before choosing the branch of medicine that will become their career.

Professor Grant continued: “Newly qualified doctors often work long hours and, justifiably, much has been written about the risks posed to patients from tired and inexperienced staff. But what about the risks to the doctors themselves? And where do they turn when they can’t cope?”

Research has revealed that as many as 1 in 5 junior doctors experience stress related illness (Firth-Cozens and Harrison 2010). Work at the new Unit at Swansea University Medical School will build on a study commissioned by the General Medical Council (GMC) in 2013 to look at similar problems for medical students which led to guidance being issued to all UK medical schools.

Professor Grant said: “This is a topic of great interest and importance as today’s trainees are the future of the NHS. The evidence shows that mental health issues in the medical professions are under-reported and often untreated which can lead to serious consequences. This research award will help to understand the scope of the problem and what can be done about it.”

The study which began in September 2015 and will last for two years, will include an international data review; interviews with policy makers, doctor support organisations, focus groups with current foundation stage doctors and also case histories of doctors who have experienced episodes of mental ill health. The data will be used to show examples of good practice and ways of improving support services.