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Study shows action needed to protect Emergency Care clinicians from burnout

2 November 2020

Commenting on ‘Need for recovery amongst emergency physicians in the UK and Ireland: a cross-sectional survey‘ published in the BMJ Open, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Adrian Boyle said: 

“This important and timely study adds to the international evidence that Emergency Medicine clinicians are at high risk of burnout.”

The study asked more than 4,000 UK Emergency Care doctors questions about their Need For Recovery (NFR) – the time taken to physically and psychologically recover from work.

The survey was based around eleven questions, with responses compiled to form a score between 0 and 100. The median average NFR result was 70 – higher than any scores reported in other professions or populations to date.

Dr Boyle said: “Staff wellbeing is a huge priority for the College and these findings are concerning – particularly as the study took place before the pandemic.

“We think that Need For Recovery is a strong early warning sign of burnout and it’s clear that more must be done to help staff rest and recover.

“Trainees appear to be most affected and the study shows that the NFR Score tended to increase as the proportion of time working out-of-hours increased.

“Trusts and boards should look to improve flexible working, access to leave and EM rota design, as well as looking to provide rest facilities and wellbeing initiatives. But key to tackling the problem is recruitment. We know that we are short of nearly 3,000 consultants across the UK. Creating a sustainable workforce is key to helping relieve pressure on existing staff, reducing burnout and improving retention.

“While we are pleased to see that EM staffing is gradually increasing, we are still a long way from where we need to be. As the mental strain of tackling coronavirus takes its toll, adequate rest and recuperation is vital for our staff, so urgent action is needed.

“This survey does not take into account the impact covid will have had and is a snapshot of a fixed point in time, so we would want to see the study repeated at various points throughout the year. Disparities between gender, clinical grade, health conditions and type of ED also suggests more research is needed in this area.”

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