A newly released survey of NHS consultants indicates that the whole service is facing a dramatic exodus of senior hospital doctors.
Figures derived from the survey indicated that as many as 80 per cent of senior doctors in the National Health Service may consider retiring early due to work-related stress.
The prominent medical figures even indicated that conditions in the NHS where so pressurised that numerous physical effects where manifesting in their everyday lives.
These included sleepless nights, marital breakups and illness such as ulcers, anxiety and even strokes.
It is clear from the survey that a vast number of senior NHS consultants are suffering from burnout, and this extreme tiredness is beginning to impact negatively on their life as a whole.
A natural knock-on effect of this particular phenomenon is that frontline services are being directly challenged.
The escalating pressure evident in the NHS has resulted in numerous negative consequences, including logjams of demand, an excessive long-hours culture, and increasing pressure to meet targets.
Research which led to these conclusions was carried out by the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA).
The HCSA interviewed 817 experienced hospital doctors, and found that 81 per cent of them stated that they had at least considered retiring earlier than planned as a direct result of work pressures.
Burnout, low morale and increasing stress were all incredibly common side-effects of the situation in the NHS, and the survey painted an extremely worrying picture of the overarching culture in the health service.
While the evidence provided by the survey is worrying enough in itself, the data will also be seen in the context of the recent government plan to create a so-called seven-day culture in the NHS.
Already there has been scepticism in some quarters that the scheme is even remotely practical, and this latest survey will only exacerbate concerns about Prime Minister David Cameron’s scheme.
Speaking on behalf of the HCSA, Eddie Saville, the HCSA’s general secretary, indicated that the data acquired in the survey was extremely worrying.
“The number of consultants that are considering retiring early is staggeringly high and a big worry for the NHS. The NHS could be left without enough consultants and the remaining consultants would then be spread too thinly,” stated Saville.
In addition, Saville also suggested that staffing and recruitment issues would naturally be negatively affected by the problems indicated in the survey.
“If experienced consultants are bringing forward their retirement age because they are burned out, the loss of that amount of skill and expertise will have an impact on recruitment and retention of existing staff, and inescapably an impact on patient care,” added Saville.
With the research also indicating that 80 per cent of senior doctors work longer than their contracted hours on a regular basis, and half of this number reportedly do so on a permanent basis, the issues facing the health service are brought sharply into focus.