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Calling for an end to the vicious cycle

Article by: Dr Katharine Halliday

Long-standing workforce shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic have taken their toll on doctor’s physical and mental health. An important factor in advocating for change is being able to utilise robust data, which is why, in January 2023, we surveyed members of our Insight Panel on their wellbeing and levels of burnout. This came a year after a similar survey we ran in early 2022 – and the changes make for interesting reading.

This latest survey was conducted during one of the most difficult periods in the NHS’s history, and it was clear that members are experiencing serious pressure. Many are considering reducing their working hours – and some have already done so.

Vicious cycle

Several people told us they had taken extended periods away from work or reduced their professional commitments  to safeguard their mental health. Approximately half of those surveyed reported being burnt out, and a further 33% said they were slightly burnt out.

Our members – and the NHS workforce more broadly – are caught in a vicious cycle. Staff shortages lead to stressful working conditions, which produce high levels of stress and burnout. This can lead to more staff reducing their working hours, taking extended leave, or leaving the service entirely, producing greater staff shortages and associated pressures on those who remain.

Putting the data to use

The data from our survey, alongside our upcoming 2022 workforce censuses, is of great value to the RCR. Having data gives us a real-time picture of conditions facing our membership on the ground. They also give us credibility in our meetings with leaders and have been quoted in the press.

The RCR continues to campaign on your behalf for solutions to the workforce crisis and the challenges facing our specialties. The Chancellor’s long-promised NHS workforce plan is due to be published soon, and we urge the Government to be bold. After years of underfunding and ever-increasing pressure, staff need to feel that hope is on the horizon – whether that’s through more doctors being trained, or action to fix the issues that impact retention, like working conditions, pay and pensions. These are points we continue to make at every opportunity in our conversations with NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and with MPs.

I would like to thank once again our Insight Panel members for taking the time to share their views with us. If you would like to join the Insight Panel, please complete this short signup survey.

Dr Katharine Halliday, RCR President


Summary of Insight Panel results:

  • Half (50%) of respondents are actively considering reducing working hours (and a further 21% have already done so). This is up from 40% actively considering this option in Feb 2022
  • Nearly a third (31%) are considering leaving the NHS to work elsewhere (and a further 6% have already done so). This is up from 28% in Feb 2022
  • Just over half (52%) of respondents expect their working conditions to negatively affect their mental health over the next 12 months
  • Approximately half (49%) of respondents reported being (more than slightly) burned out 
Article by

After completing her radiology training in London, Australia, Sheffield and Nottingham, Dr Halliday was appointed as a Consultant Paediatric Radiologist at Nottingham University Hospital in 1998. She has a special interest in the imaging of suspected physical abuse and provides expert opinions for cases throughout the UK. She was Chair of the British Society of Paediatric Radiology from 2010-2016 and chaired the working group for the updated guidance for imaging in cases of suspected physical abuse in children.

In September 2017, Dr Halliday was appointed National Clinical Lead for the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme for Radiology, and the Radiology GIRFT report was published in July 2020. Dr Halliday took over as Clinical Director for Radiology at Nottingham University Hospitals in January 2021.

Dr Halliday's tenure as RCR President is 2022-2025.