Authors: Christie C, Bidwell S, Cleland A, et al
Reference: J Prim Health Care, Oct 2017
Summarised on: 12 April 2018
Since 2009, Pegasus Health, a primary care network in Canterbury, has had a formal Pastoral Care Programme that offers rehabilitative and educational support to GPs. Expansion of the programme to nurse practitioners (NPs), practice nurses (PNs), and community pharmacists (CPs) has been considered. The researchers collected data on the self-care of Canterbury GPs, NPs, PNs and CPs via a questionnaire that was distributed at Small Group Education meetings between August and October 2016.
The survey was open to 1144 health professionals and had a response rate of 43% (n =495); 51% indicated that they worked full-time. Although enrolment with a GP was high at 95.8% (n= 474), 48.2% of the respondents had consulted a colleague when unwell rather than attending their own GP.
Over the past 12 months, the majority, especially the GPs, were taking 2 weeks or more of annual leave, but 10.8% of health professionals had taken no leave or less than 1 week (mostly CPs and PNs).
Of the respondents, 20.2% (n=101) had taken 1–2 weeks’ annual leave, 4.8% (n=24) had taken less than 1 week, and 6% (n=30) had taken no leave at all. More than half the respondents had worked while ill when they felt they should not have; with 35 out of 54 participants (64.8%) stating the lack of locum cover as the reason they continued working while ill. CPs had the highest rates of working while ill (64.4%) as well as for not taking adequate leave.
Although many more PNs worked part-time compared with the other professional groups, their rates of leave were also low; 7% did not take any leave and 40% took less than 2 weeks over the previous 12 months. Overall, 85.9% (n=419) of respondents felt adequately supported in their own self-care, whereas 14.1% (n=69) did not. However, 30.3% (n=129) felt the workplace could be better at supporting health professionals to care for themselves. Of the respondents, 42.6% had sought professional support for their self-care mainly from a GP (88.5%).
The authors say the overwhelming implication of the survey responses was the lack of available locums for all professional groups surveyed. Following this study, the issue of locums is being reviewed in Canterbury, and the potential to make the Pastoral Care Programme more widely available is being considered.