Shrewsbury mum wants better mental care for junior doctors

Dr Lauren Phillips, Image copyright Andrea Graham
Image caption Lauren Phillips has not been seen after she disappeared in February 2017

The mother of a junior doctor missing for nearly three years is calling for an improvement in mental health support for medical practitioners.

Lauren Phillips, 26, was last seen on 23 February 2017. Her car was found in Woolacombe, Devon, five days later.

Andrea Graham, from Shrewsbury, said medical staff were reluctant to admit to mental health struggles.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock agreed understaffing was putting junior doctors under pressure.

Coastguards, the RNLI and a police helicopter searched for Dr Phillips, who had reportedly been worried about starting a new job at an A&E department in Bristol.

She had sought help and had been advised to sign up with a GP, Ms Graham said.

Ms Graham, a former NHS manager, believes junior doctors are not expressing how pressure and anxiety is making them feel.

"Doctors have a fear that if they admitted they struggled with a particular situation at work or if they admitted they struggled from mental health problems then that might be taken into account in (their) future career," she said.

"Or it might demonstrate they are not strong enough to be a doctor."

Image caption Andrea Graham met Health Secretary Matt Hancock over the issues surrounding pressure on junior doctors

The BBC's Inside Out programme investigated suicide among doctors in England and found the NHS has a shortage of 10,000 staff.

Ms Graham met the health secretary to discuss issues surrounding the profession.

Asked if understaffing had put more pressure on junior doctors, Mr Hancock replied: "Of course I do and I see it in hospitals.

"When they sign up to be a doctor in the first place they are signing up to give their working life to the care of others and we need to care for them."

The NHS Practitioner Health Programme is a confidential NHS service for doctors and dentists with issues relating to a mental health concern or addiction problem and has been rolled out across England this month.

Its medical director, Clare Gerada, said she found that "wonderful young people" were not being shown "kindness and compassion."

"We're treating them as if they don't matter," she said.

You can see this story in full on BBC Inside Out in the West Midlands at 19:30 BST on BBC One on Monday 21 October, or via iPlayer for 30 days afterwards.

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