Support and wellness
Where you can find support and help
Anaesthesia and medicine are stressful careers. The College supports the well-being of anaesthetists and recognises that from time to time individual doctors experience difficulty.
Please note that the College cannot advise individual doctors on specific episodes of clinical care or medicolegal issues. Support for individual practitioners is in the domain of the medical defence organisations and the College strongly advises anaesthetists and related medical professionals to obtain appropriate independent insurance cover and membership of a medical defence organisation.
Career and personal difficulties
Following the tragic death of an anaesthetic trainee who fell asleep while driving home after a hospital night shift, the College, the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI), and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine (FICM) have launched an initiative to address the impact of fatigue and shift working on doctors and the consequences for wellbeing and patient safety.
To raise awareness of the dangers of fatigue amongst doctors, our organisations are calling for action across the NHS. We have produced an educational resource pack for NHS leaders and managers to encourage the provision of adequate rest and catering facilities in hospitals. The Fatigue Awareness Educational Resource Packs are being initially rolled out to all NHS Hospitals and Health Boards in England, Wales and Scotland, with further distribution to follow.
The RCoA, AAGBI and FICM are urging the NHS and the Health and Safety Executive to respond to the widespread impact of fatigue and shift working on doctors and other clinical staff, and the potential serious consequences for staff wellbeing and patient safety.
The Academy is the coordinating body for the UK and Ireland’s 23 medical Royal Colleges and Faculties. They ensure that patients are safely and properly cared for by setting standards for the way doctors are educated, trained and monitored throughout their careers.
Do you think you may have a problem? Checklists can be found on the AA website.
The majority of AA or NA meetings are ‘closed’ and are only for recovering addicts/alcoholics and those who think they may have a drug problem. A meeting described as ‘open’ may be attended by anyone e.g. Professionals working with addicts or family members, friends, etc. Meetings lists are on the AA or NA websites with details of open meetings at each venue.
The AAGBI Support and Wellbeing service provides anaesthetists with access to the appropriate support and guidance for their professional and personal wellbeing. It provides a number of schemes that are relevant for anaesthetists. The AAGBI 'glossy' entitled Drug and Alcohol Abuse amongst Anaesthetists - Guidance on Identification and Management was published in March 2011. The AAGBI Welfare Resource Pack describes the particular difficulties that 'doctors-as-patients' can experience.
All relevant resources on how to deal with bullying and where to find help if you are affected by it can be found in our #KnockItOut FAQs.
This is a helpful option for mental health concerns but is not addiction specific. It is not necessary to be a BMA member. There is currently a pilot scheme running with the GMC to provide support for doctors at their hearings and along the course of their GMC involvement.
Up to six counselling sessions are available for members as well as helpline support. Callers can also ask to speak to Doctor Advisor. Three of these advisors are anaesthetists.
The BMA can help with some of the employment laws and issues surrounding return to work after a period of suspension or ill-health.
This is a countrywide network of doctors and dentists at various stages in recovery from addiction, who are well again and who meet on a monthly basis at one of 18 groups covering the UK. Following initial contact, callers may be put in touch with another doctor (in some cases from the same specialty) nearer to their home who may then introduce a new doctor to the group at the local meetings.
Problems can be discussed at these meetings which may not be appropriate to discuss at meetings of AA or NA, for instance, GMC proceedings and issues surrounding return to work.
Doctors under the GMC for substance abuse problems will be required to attend these meetings as conditions on their practice, or as part of their stipulated undertakings. Certificates and proof of attendance can be obtained from the group secretary and given to the GMC.
There is also an associated families group, where direct relatives of addicted doctors and dentists can obtain help and support. Each BDDG meeting usually has a families group.
Support for family members of addicted doctors can be obtained via the families Group of the BDDG.
The Doctors' Support Network (DSN) is a fully confidential, friendly self-help group for doctors with mental health concerns. This may be helpful for addicted doctors with a dual diagnosis.
Advice for doctors with health concerns, help for those who are successfully managing health conditions and for doctors referred to the GMC for health-related reasons.
These monthly meetings are attended by doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists & other healthcare professionals who have addiction problems. They too are confidential and offer similar help and support to that of the BDDG.
London (Chertsey): 01737 813921
Narcotics Anonymous is for recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. It is not restricted to those with opiate/narcotic abuse problems as the name may suggest, but any drug including tranquillisers, recreational drugs, and alcohol. The website contains some questions and information for those who think they may have a problem.
Do you think you may have a problem? Checklists may be found on the Narcotics Anonymous website.
The majority of AA or NA meetings are ‘closed’ and are only for recovering addicts/alcoholics and those who think they may have a drug problem. A meeting described as ‘open’ may be attended by anyone e.g. professionals working with addicts, family members, friends, etc. Meetings lists are on the AA or NA websites with details of open meetings at each venue.
NCAS is an independent NHS body which works with individual practitioners and healthcare organisations where there is a concern about the performance of a dentist, doctor or pharmacist. Their role is to support both the referring organisation and practitioner to consider all options, to get involved early and, where possible, restore practitioners to safe and valued practice. Common themes in NCAS cases include concerns relating to clinical practice and capability, behaviour, health, working environment or context of practice. Referrals to NCAS can either be self-referrals from practitioners themselves or alternatively can be made by the employer.
This is an NHS-funded but entirely confidential service open to doctors and dentists (living or working in the London area only). Care is multidisciplinary in nature and provides appropriate specialist care and support for any doctor with addiction, mental or physical health concerns. Where inpatient therapy is thought necessary, this will be organised and funded by the PHP/NHS. Follow-up, monitoring, and help with returning to work are also part of the services offered.
Unfortunately, this is currently only available to London-based doctors, but there are hopes that plans for expansion to cover other areas of the country will eventuate. Advice can be obtained by phone even if outside the London area.
If you are concerned that you may have a substance misuse problem, or if this is something affecting a friend, family member, or colleague then Rehab 4 Addiction is a free addiction helpline run by people who’ve beaten addiction in their own lives.
Provides confidential advice to individuals in any kind of distress. People of all backgrounds and ages can contact them for emotional support. Common reasons for calling the Samaritans include job and study-related stress, bereavement, and isolation.
The SDT is an independent charity established over 18 years ago, which provides a 24-hour helpline manned exclusively by experienced doctors who are in recovery from addiction themselves, or trained counsellors. It provides help and support to doctors who think they may have a problem with their use of alcohol or other drugs, whether prescribed or not. Calls are treated with strict confidentiality, and callers may remain anonymous if they wish.
Help offered includes assessment, advice, referral for treatment when appropriate and introduction to long term befriending and support services. The helpline also accepts calls from family members or friends, concerned colleagues, PCT officers, and others.
SMART Recovery uses psychotherapeutic techniques that are similar to those used in many treatment services in the UK, being more along the lines of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). The concept started years ago with online meetings with a facilitator, which many found helpful. Now meetings are being held in person from Banff right down to Brighton. Details can be found on the website.
Long term support, even to a doctor’s family after they themselves have died if the hardship continues.
Exists to support medical practitioners and/or their dependents who find themselves in financial difficulty.
Help for doctors with financial difficulties during life crises who are not working.