THREE in four doctors in Scotland say pressures at work have had a damaging effect on their health and wellbeing in the past year.

A damning survey by BMA Scotland reveals that a majority of medics are struggling with mounting workloads, regularly exceed their shift times, and are going to work despite feeling too ill to be there.

Dr Lewis Morrison: “The year’s end is traditionally a chance to pause for thought. To reflect on the demands placed on doctors, and to consider how doctors are being looked after themselves.

“The survey we publish today can leave absolutely no doubt that much better support for doctors is urgently needed. NHS Scotland needs to be a better place to work, and not one which has the potential to harm its staff.

“The survey exposes the reality of escalating workload pressures, with many unable to take the breaks they need and feeling that they must work even when ill themselves.

"This is clearly bad for doctors’ wellbeing and health, and our survey shows nearly a quarter have sought help in the last two years. And we simply don’t know how many more needed help but didn’t seek it or couldn’t get it.”

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The survey of 800 doctors in Scotland found that 77% said their work had harmed their health and wellbeing in the past year.

Around 23% of those asked sought help for the effects to their health.

Half (45%) rarely or never had their prescribed breaks, 83% said workload pressure in their department has increased over the last year, and 80% said they “often or always” worked beyond their daily hours.

Mr Morrison said NHS staffing had to be increased along with funding.

He said: “Doctors’ work will always be potentially stressful, but current conditions in the NHS simply aren’t sustainable and, as a result, are creating unnecessary levels of pressure on all healthcare workers.

“We need a properly resourced system - and that means people, not just money.

“Simply saying again and again that we have record staffing doesn’t cut it. This repeated mantra risks dismissing the concerns of and pressures on those doctors working in services with rising vacancy levels.

“Let’s start talking about how to get and keep the staff we need, not just talk about the number we have, and which clearly isn’t enough.”

It comes after consultant vacancies rose 18% in the 12 months to June this year, with a record 508 posts lying empty - half of them for six months or more.

BMA Scotland has previously warned that the true scale of the problem is hidden because vacancies are only counted if attempts are made to fill them through recruitment campaigns.

Scottish Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs described the findings as a “stark reminder” of the pressures faced by medics.

He said: “This is entirely the consequence of the SNP’s poor handling of our NHS.

“Their shambolic approach to workforce planning has led to unprecedented vacancies, and means the remaining staff are having to pick up the slack.”

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Experienced consultants have spoken this year about cutting back hours, avoiding overtime designed to reduce waiting lists and even retiring early due to pension changes brought in at a UK level which had resulted in huge tax bills that often outweighed any extra earnings.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it “works closely” with the BMA to identify and implement changes all doctors want to see.

He added: “Our independent expert group, established to make recommendations on further improvements, is due to report back by the end of the year and the Health Secretary will fully consider the recommendations.

“This will build on changes already implemented at the request of junior doctors, including banning working seven consecutive night shifts, ensuring no more than seven days or shifts are worked in a row and ensuring all junior doctor rotas should contain a minimum 46-hour rest period following a run of full shifts working nightshift.”