A joint statement from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland, the General Medical Council and the British Medical Association.
The wellbeing of doctors can rarely have been more important, or equally more under threat.
Much of the profession has been pushed to the limits this year, going above and beyond what was asked of them to deal with the impact of COVID-19.
This has been a truly unprecedented time, when the people of Scotland have relied on doctors more than ever before.
And with cases now rising again and winter approaching, many doctors will have anxieties about what may come, having had very little respite over the last 12 months.
It is against this backdrop that we want to update you on discussions that our organisations have been having on wellbeing for some time. In particular following on from discussions earlier this year on the GMC’s publication of ‘Caring for Doctors Caring for Patients’ we came together to bring a focussed and co-ordinated approach to all of our work to support doctors and protect patients.
Just as the public have demonstrated they are squarely behind Scotland’s doctors over recent months – it is also crucial that our organisations do all we can to help support doctors in the tough times they are undeniably facing.
That is exactly what our new wellbeing group, with representatives from GMC, BMA Scotland and the Scottish Academy of Royal Colleges of Medicine have been aiming to do and intend to go on doing as things inevitably get harder for those who work in our NHS.
There is much to discuss and do – across mental health support and access to services, as to how we can use all our collective efforts to support doctors to provide the best possible care they can.
As individual organisations, we will always have our own particular roles, and priorities. We believe however that where our interests overlap, we should do all we possibly can to support and protect doctors whilst they do the best possible job they can, to avoid their health and wellbeing suffering as a result. This in turn crucially protects patients, ensuring they get safe, effective care.
An early focus of our work, for example, has been how medical appraisal is to be restarted in Scotland to reflect these new circumstances. Collectively, we have made some progress on ensuring the system remains effective and provide assurance for patients, but also reflects the impact of COVID-19, and all the extra pressures for doctors that has brought with it.
Indeed we are grateful to have worked with NHS Education for Scotland (NES) on an addition of key text to the Scottish Online Appraisal Resource (SOAR) which is clear that: “Appraisals for this year will focus on well-being as many doctors will have found the last few months challenging and will have experienced difficulty in collecting evidence for the various appraisal domains.”
It also points out that lack of evidence in a domain will not hinder doctors completing details on SOAR. In areas where there is no evidence, all that needs to be added is ‘Nothing to submit’ and you will be able to move to the next section.
At the same link you can find a letter from Dr Gregor Smith, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer which provides more detail on this year’s approach to appraisal and again emphasises that that “flexibility should be shown by appraisers in relation to the supporting information that a doctor provides.”
In addition to this, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges have produced fresh guidance for 2020 which describes how medical appraisal can be carried out considerately and effectively for professional appraisals in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we outlined earlier in this statement, this work on appraisal won’t reflect every single ask from all of our organisations. But we do think it shows that by working together and focusing on key areas, we can take positive steps to reduce the burden doctors face at this crucial and trying time.
It is our commitment to go on working together to make more progress like this wherever we can, and we’ll update you jointly and individually, whenever we possibly can.