The United Kingdom Association for Physician Health (UKAPH) was founded in 2012 and is chaired by Dr Mike Peters of the BMA Doctors for Doctors unit. The aim is to bring together professionals from a variety of backgrounds including psychology, occupational health, psychiatry, and general practice - with a common aim to improve the mental health of UK doctors.
September 2013 at BMA House
By Dr Louise Freeman
Increased scrutiny of doctors is an issue
The morning sessions centred on reflections by several speakers on how the pressure on doctors has greatly increased over the last few decades. Tony Garelick (MedNet) , Megan Joffe (NCAS), Andrew Collier (Chair Junior Doctors
Committee) and Cait Searl (consultant anaesthetist & negotiator national BMA consultant contract talks) all discussed similar topics such as the decrease in doctors’ hours with an associated increase in intensity of working. The scrutiny
of doctors from every possible viewpoint in today’s NHS was also felt to be a significant cause of added stress.
Doctors working with less autonomy
The final speaker of the morning was Ben Charnaud from the South West. Ben is a consultant psychiatrist with a special interest in occupational health who works in a service supporting doctors in primary care. He strikingly likened the situation of doctors today to being similar to Vichy France with medics working under a system with which they do not agree but have no choice.
A lack of time to reflect in clinical practice
Ben was an excellent speaker who fluently described an “absence of reflective space in most organisations which is harmful to an organisation carrying out its primary task except in a mechanical way." The morning sessions concluded with a small group discussion in which we shared our experiences of how working in UK healthcare has changed over time and tried to agree some lessons for where we are now.
Doctors as part of a family
The afternoon session began with Dr Julia Bland (consultant psychiatrist & psychoanalyst, MedNet) describing her work with doctor couples and families. Apparently medic/non-medic and medic/medic partnerships have their own characteristic difficulties.
The future of the UKAPH
The meeting finished with another small group session about how the attendees, working within fragmented systems, manage to function and support other doctors. There was discussion over the future of UKAPH and whether it needed to have a more formal structure.