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Premises and facilities must help address ‘mental health crisis among doctors’


The NHS has long been working to ensure that our mental and physical health needs are taken care of in equal measure. But new research commissioned by the British Medical Association (BMA) asks whether the mental health of doctors themselves is getting the attention it deserves. I was struck by one section of the study which asked doctors about the physical environments in which they work, and about the role of their workplace facilities in how they feel about their jobs, their colleagues and their employers.

The study reports that all doctors felt that their place of work was lacking in basic amenities, such as somewhere to prepare food away from patients and to take a break: “The lack of these basic amenities sometimes led to doctors feeling unappreciated, undervalued and for some means that the care they can give their patients is compromised.”

The Picker Institute also looked at this issue several years ago. Its work highlighted NHS staff views that efficiency, recruitment, communication and job satisfaction – all fundamental issues for the NHS – are importantly affected by the design of their workplaces. In primary care specifically, premises issues and challenges are widely recognised as a barrier to recruitment and retention of GPs. Better premises aren’t just about helping teams deliver to their full potential, but about creating working environments which make them feel valued. 

The BMA’s report makes clear that the smallest steps can make a big difference: “If we had a staff coffee room, if we had a staff kitchen, if we had a protected area, if we had an area in the canteen that was separate so that we’re not mixing with the public. Those things are really, really important.” 

The study’s recommendations include:

  • dedicated areas for socialising including kitchens and canteens away from patients
  • spaces which promote a healthier mindset, such as gyms or gardens so that doctors can exercise or get outdoors
  • other practical changes to the working environment, like showers.

From its study, the BMA has created a charter for mental wellbeing which includes a commitment to create healthy workplaces. The physical spaces we work in can do so much for the mental health we all need to work well. Let’s make sure those spaces are up to the task.

Claire Rick is our Head of Public Affairs.