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Researchers call for more studies into mental health of health professionals

05 March 2010

Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King's College London, who contributed to the government's Health for Health Professionals report, have identified an urgent need for more research on mental disorders amongst healthcare professionals.

IoP researchers, part of King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre, produced a comprehensive review of current research into the mental health of health care professionals for the Department of Health's Health of Health Professionals framework. The evidence from this report contributed to their new framework for frontline services, 'Invisible Patients', published today, to help organisations to develop services for clinicians with health problems to get prompt help without fear or stigma. The report outlines seven recommendations for organisations to improve the health of health professionals, including the need for long term studies.

The IoP review highlighted a number of areas of concern including higher rates of depression, anxiety and substance misuse in health professionals than in other groups of workers. Health professionals were less likely to seek help for problems and there was a culture of 'presenteeism' - coming to work and performing at less than full capacity as a result of ill health. Risk factors for mental ill health were identified in the way health services were structured at an individual and organisational level.

Matthew Hotopf, Professor of General Hospital Psychiatry and co-author of the report said:

'We know many of these conditions influence performance and can impact on the quality of care provided to patients. One of the problems is that health professionals do not seek treatment soon enough - we need studies to identify effective interventions which can be employed at an early stage.'

He continues: 'Furthermore, there is a need for more research to establish how the individual and workplace risk factors interact to see which affects which. Specialised services should be developed to offer health professionals confidential and accessible help.'

He concludes: 'Nurses particularly are under-represented in research. As the single largest group of employees in the NHS they should be a priority.'

Professor Robert Lechler, Vice-Principal (Health) and Executive Director, King's Health Partners said:

'King's Health Partners welcomes the government's 'Invisible Patients' strategy. The NHS is the largest employer in Europe and has a duty of care to staff and patients. Additionally, investment in research would lessen the cost to the tax payer through health professionals' sickness absence and presenteeism.

'King's Health Partners has a track record of world-class research in this area and is uniquely placed to conduct long term studies into the health and well-being of different groups of health professionals in different health care settings.'

King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering collaboration between King's College London, and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts.

To view The Mental Health of Health Care Professionals report please click

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