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Doctors need help to stop them becoming patients.

Byline: By Madeleine Brindley Western Mail

Changing times in the medical profession mean that doctors are now under more pressure to constantly perform and meet the expectations of patients. The shambolic affairs relating to the junior doctor job application schemes - Medical Training Application Service and Modernising Medical Careers - have placed additional weight on the shoulders of dedicated young doctors working on the frontline, uncertain what future they have in a career they passionately studied for.

In England, private sector services mean that doctors now compete for patients in order to earn their crust. Wales has not gone down this path, but the stresses are still ever present at the workplace.

Unfortunately, doctors can still suffer from the common conditions affecting the general population, including stress and depression. They are also exposed to blood products and other illnesses and diseases that pose unique risks.

In the event of a flu pandemic medics will be at the forefront of battling and containing the outbreak. The tragic bombings of 7/7 also showed how medics are thrust into danger and must continue to provide care to the nation when they need it most.

But with this comes the emotional and physical scars that remain on the doctors themselves. Post traumatic stress is a hazard of the medical profession that must be prevented with adequate support and compassion.

The catastrophic effects that stress can have on an individual and their family can mean that lives and careers are wrecked unless they receive help, support and treatment.

Occupational health services are the backbone of this support, but the current NHS provision to doctors and other healthcare professionals is at times fragmented, ad-hoc and, at worst, non-existent.

Another group of people who require help and support is medical students. The demands of a rigorous five-year course, coupled with constant clinical exposure to emotive situations means that students can become unwell and suffer.

Only two months ago a medical student at Leeds University failed his final examinations and took his own life. He had around pounds 20,000 of debt but had been happy at university. However, at a time when he was obviously emotionally stretched to the limit help was not offered. His family claims no counselling services, pastoral care or general personal and career guidance was offered to him.

Unless we offer comprehensive counselling and occupational health services to doctors and patients then we face turning doctors into patients and our population's healthcare will inevitably suffer.

Blood borne viruses, alcohol dependence, depression and disability are all issues that are prevalent amongst society including doctors. However, these problems should not mean they cannot continue to practise medicine and treat their patients to a high standard.

We must invest in these services to keep medics, and potential medics, fit and healthy to continue to be able to fulfil their role in maintaining the heartbeat of the nation.

David Gwynfor Samuel is a fifth year medical student at Cardiff University and deputy chair (welfare) of the BMA's medical students' committee
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 9, 2007
Words:502
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