Doctors have been left with 'moral injury' after being forced to act against their ‘moral compass’ during the pandemic and feel like they have let their patients down.

Chair of the BMA’s Consultants’ Committee Dr Rob Harwood, speaking at the annual BMA Consultants’ Conference, said the psychological impact of being unable to do what they believe is right has been ‘just too much’ for some doctors.

Harwood also renewed calls for a fair pay rise for doctors at the conference and said that consultants have faced the pandemic ‘head on’, working long hours, sometimes without the correct or enough PPE, and have seen their patients and colleagues die in unprecedented numbers.

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The demand for a pay uplift of at least 5% is part of the BMA’s Fairness for the Frontline campaign, which was launched because consultants in England have seen their real term pay cut in some cases by 28.6%. Yet the Government’s recommended pay award for doctors in England this year is just 1%. 

Exhausted NHS staff may leave roles

A report by the NHS Confederation in March said that a fully costed and funded long term NHS workforce plan is needed if it is recover from the pandemic. This is because there is a real risk that exhausted NHS staff may leave their roles unless expectations of their workload mean they are allowed time to recover.

Thousands doctors also told the BMA in May that they were considering leaving the NHS in the next year due to stress and burnout without adequate respite from the exhaustion caused by the demands of the pandemic. 

Dr Harwood said: “We have been called heroes and received applause, but lofty rhetoric and claps can’t capture the reality of our situation. After all the clapping from the Cabinet, the Government’s proposal of a 1% pay rise was disappointing, mean-spirited and insulting - although not surprising.

"At a time when consultants are needed more than ever, how can we allow them to be lost by a Government who doesn’t realise their true worth?"