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RCEM launches public appeal raising money to support A&E staff facing stress and burnout

11 June 2021

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is launching a public appeal to support the mental health and wellbeing of A&E staff after data show that many have struggled with burnout, distress, and other psychological conditions resulting from the stress of the pandemic, further to the continued pressures of their day-to-day work in Emergency Departments.

The NHS entered the pandemic underfunded, under-resourced and understaffed. This meant the severe demands of the ensuing pandemic were faced by the existing but understaffed workforce. The shortage of health care workers has meant these existing staff have been continually pushed to their limits and beyond. And throughout the pandemic these health care workers have been physically, mentally, and emotionally challenged. Staff have been working with little or no respite in challenging conditions while facing ever increasing pressures.

The Health and Social Care Committee report “Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care” cites data from NHS Providers that show 92% of trusts raised “concerns about staff wellbeing, stress and burnout following the pandemic”.

A study published in January 2021 found that nearly half of frontline doctors, including those working in Emergency Medicine, suffered psychological distress during the first wave of the pandemic with others suffering from trauma, PTSD and other psychological conditions.

A study from 2019 found that working as an emergency physician is one of the most fatiguing and stress-inducing professions, a result of regularly working shifts longer than 12-hours, struggling to find work-life balance, and burnout. This was recorded prior to the pandemic, during which the pressures on Emergency Medicine staff significantly increased.

Dr John Heyworth, Consultant in Emergency Medicine in Southampton and Chair of RCEM Fundraising, said:

“We know that many Emergency Medicine staff are exhausted and facing burnout. After 15 months of this pandemic, with waves of Covid causing intense pressures on our overstretched emergency departments, and now a return to high pre-pandemic levels of hospital activity, added to the stress of the threat of a further wave of covid – this is not surprising. But it is deeply worrying.

“We must do all we can to protect and support our frontline Emergency Department staff. Their hard work and dedication throughout this extremely challenging time has been incredible. As ever, they have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic risking their personal health and dedicating themselves to the care of others.

“The public have shown their remarkable support and respect for the health service. And now, we want to appeal to them to support our A&E staff who work 24/7 in Emergency Departments, ready to treat anyone who seeks care.

“When we know that our Emergency Medicine workforce is struggling with exhaustion, burnout, stress and other psychological conditions then we must take action, and they deserve our support.

“RCEM’s Public Mental Health and Wellbeing Appeal aims to raise money to develop and expand the support services offered to A&E staff who may be struggling with mental health conditions including PTSD, stress, burnout and exhaustion. The support offered will be guided and dictated by what A&E staff need most so that we can help them in the best way possible.

“RCEM’s goal is to ensure the services and support provided have a positive and lasting impact on the mental health and wellbeing of our frontline A&E workers.”


Notes to Editor

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