Over 8 out of 10 doctors in the National Health Service (NHS) are finding it increasingly difficult to work due to long shifts, staff shortages, poor safety in hospitals, and low salaries, according to a new survey from Univadis Medscape Italia.
The survey, conducted on a sample of 1,169 full-time health workers, revealed that 57% of respondents believe their workload has increased in hospitals, but only 27% reported new staff being hired to alleviate the pressure. This lack of staff is now cited as the main obstacle for doctors in 35% of cases, surpassing bureaucracy, which was previously the main concern.
Furthermore, 89% of doctors feel they are not paid enough. While the average annual salary for Italian doctors is around €60,000, there is a significant disparity between hospital workers and those in outpatient clinics. Hospital workers earn an average of €56,000 per year, while those in clinics, including general practitioners, can earn up to €79,000 per year, a difference of €23,000.
The gender pay gap is also highlighted in the survey, with women earning approximately €20,000 less than their male colleagues annually. This disparity is often compounded by the challenges of balancing professional and personal life.
Additional income opportunities, such as bonuses and incentives, are scarce, with only 50% of doctors able to access them. Meanwhile, inflation has increased, causing a decrease in purchasing power for 77% of respondents. Additionally, 73% of employed doctors pay for supplementary insurance out of their own pockets, leading to increased general spending.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about changes in working hours and wages, it is no longer the primary source of problems within hospitals, according to Daniela Ovadia, director of Univadis Medscape Italia. Instead, the issues are more structural and organizational, including staff shortages, low safety measures for doctors, increased attacks, and decreased benefits.
As a result, more doctors, especially younger ones, are considering working abroad, particularly in countries like Switzerland and England. Others are turning to private healthcare as a solution. In fact, 32% of the surveyed doctors expressed an interest in private healthcare, while 17% are considering setting up their own practice.
Despite these challenges, the survey highlighted the importance and reward of the doctor-patient relationship. For 31% of respondents, this relationship remains one of the most rewarding aspects of their work. Other sources of satisfaction include personal skill (26%), contributing to making the world a better place (12%), and pride in being a doctor (9%).
Interestingly, the survey also noted a significant increase in the use of telemedicine. Skepticism towards digital tools in the healthcare sector has decreased, with 36% of respondents now using telemedicine tools and 71% reporting satisfaction with them. Additionally, 20% of doctors plan to expand their use of telemedicine to include teleconsultations, while 38% are considering it.
The findings of this survey paint a concerning picture of the challenges faced by doctors in the NHS. Staff shortages, poor safety conditions, and low salaries are pushing many doctors to consider opportunities abroad or in the private sector. It is crucial for policymakers to address these issues and prioritize the well-being and satisfaction of healthcare professionals in order to ensure the sustainability and quality of the healthcare system.