Growing concern over hospital capacities due to Covid-19 and the winter spike has led to suicide rates amongst doctors being raised with the Prime Minister, with some calling medics to be given ‘pyscological PPE’.
MP Gareth Johnson raised the issue of increased suicide rates amongst doctors in Parliament last week after a Dartford consultant took his own life amid extreme work pressure.
Dr Jagdip Sidhu was a consultant cardiologist at Darent Valley Hospital and sat at the top of his profession, but died in November 2018.
Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust commissioned an independent report into his death and found two of the factors that caused it were an excessive workload and the fact the NHS was “resource constrained.”
Speaking in Parliament, Gareth Johnson told the Prime Minister that his constituent “could not cope with the pressure that he faced and sadly took his own life.”
Today the case that inspired Doctors in Distress, the suicide of Dr Jagdip Sidhu was mentioned in Parliament and by Boris Johnson. A huge milestone and moment of recognition for us seeing these sorts of conversations happen but still plenty more work to do.#doctorsindistress pic.twitter.com/LgiajlIt2C
— Doctors In Distress (@DoctorsDistress) November 2, 2020
The MP added: “Doctors are between two and five times more likely to take their lives than the general population.
“Could the Prime Minister therefore agree it is vital we do as much as possible for the welfare of clinicians during what is going to be a very, very challenging time for this profession.”
Responding, Boris Johnson said: “I am deeply sorry to hear about the loss of life, suicide of his constituent Dr Jagdip Sidhu.
“We are doing everything we can to support NHS care for its staff, their wellbeing and their mental health and I would urge anybody in the NHS who is aware of a colleague who is struggling with their mental health to come forward and seek help.”
Following Dr Sidhu’s death, his brother Amandip Sidhu founded the charity Doctors in Distress to try to change cultures and behaviour to reduce suicide rates amongst doctors.
A doctor dies from suicide approximately every three weeks, and the aim of the charity is to reduce this rate and raise awareness.
The Dartford MP added: “As the number of Covid infections and hospital admissions increase pressure on clinicians will inevitable rise too.
“Dartford has seen 127 deaths from Covid so far and each one of these is not just devastating for the families of these people but also has an impact on those that have been treating them.
“It therefore is essential that we consider the welfare of our doctors, nurses and care workers at this time.”
During the first lockdown, Amandip called for psychological PPE in the form of therapeutic spaces where medics can readily access support and talk about the emotional impact of their work.
Now, two years on from his brother’s death, Amandip said in a statement: “Here at Doctors in Distress we are grateful and honoured that the case that inspired Doctors in Distress was mentioned in Parliament and acknowledged by Boris Johnson.
“This is a huge milestone for us and we would like to thank Gareth Johnson for recognising Doctors in Distress, and our work.
“We are seeing good progress in reducing the stigma of mental health amongst doctors and the health system with these conversations, but there is still more to do in recognising the importance of doctors, nurses and healthcare worker’s welfare at this time.”