Peer support for the hard-pressed doctors of Addenbrooke’s

Peer support for the hard-pressed doctors of Addenbrooke’s

Doctor to doctor video call

As a nation, we are all painfully aware of the burden that the pandemic continues to present to staff in the NHS and social care. With funds set aside to support the mental health of NHS professionals, the Evelyn Trust agreed in April to part-fund the new ‘Doctors-for-Doctors’ project at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. This is a psychological and pastoral support service delivered by doctors to other doctors on the staff who are suffering from burnout, overload and post-traumatic stress. Current funding will support the project until the end of November.

“The medical profession hasn’t always supported doctors with pastoral supervision in the way that other professions do and this is a significant gap, particularly in the face of a pandemic. When doctors feel overloaded or traumatised by their work, there isn’t always a safe space that they can use to offload and reflect on what they’ve experienced and how they can move forward sustainably. This is what ‘Doctors-for-Doctors’ provides. There are five of us, we are all GPs, and so we have a strong understanding of the issues these professionals are tackling. We provide mainly 1:1 sessions, on demand, and of course remotely for the moment rather than face-to-face. We are also working with teams of clinicians to help them gain a greater understanding of each other as individuals and so develop supportive communities in the workplace,” comments Dr Susie Hunt, who leads the project.

“Our key aim is to listen, support and help individuals to improve resilience and reduce fragility, so hopefully avoiding deterioration in their mental health. With the widespread, profound effects of COVID-19 on all aspects of the healthcare system and patient care, our doctors and other staff are under extreme pressure.”

The project is part of the wider Professional Wellbeing and Clinician Support Service at Addenbrooke’s and it has seen a huge growth in demand since March. The challenges, of course, are not solely faced by doctors: clinicians across the board currently need increased emotional support and so the team has been working to upskill senior clinicians with a long-term aim to provide a ‘Clinicians for Clinicians’ service across all professions at Addenbrooke’s. Susie has already extended debriefing support to the whole physiotherapy workforce, in addition to seven medical specialties including Occupational Health. Pastoral supervisions have increased 10-fold this year across 21 medical and surgical specialties. She has also responded to a need for mediation in some teams where pressure has caused relationship dysfunction.

“We are enormously grateful to the Evelyn Trust for helping us to extend this offer to all 1,200 doctors working across Addenbrooke’s. Feedback has been extremely positive from staff and we hope that our sessions will help both individuals and teams to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead this winter,” says Susie. 

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