NEW mums and their babies are being put at risk of poor care by stressed out medics, a study warns.
Researchers from Imperial College London warn one in three maternity doctors are struggling with burnout.
They claim sufferers often lack empathy, despite having to deal with pregnant or labouring women.
Doctors with burnout were also four times more likely to practice “defensively”, according to the research.
As a result, they were more likely to avoid difficult cases or procedures, over-prescribe drugs, and carry out needless investigations or treatments.
In the biggest study of its kind, published in BMJ Open, experts measured burnout in 3,000 medics working in obstetrics and gynaecology.
They found 36 per cent met the criteria, while a further 43 per cent of trainees were also likely to be sufferers
The condition is triggered by long-term stress and overwork.
Previous studies have linked burnout to lower standards of patient care and reduced safety.
Lead researcher Professor Tom Bourne said: “We found the results of this survey very worrying. The levels of burnout were high, particularly amongst younger doctors.
“This has serious implications for patients, as we know burnout reduces patient satisfaction, safety and standards of care.
“These results point to an environment in UK hospitals that makes staff unwell and less able to carry out their jobs safely.”
The doctors who met the criteria for burnout were six times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, four times more likely to report depression, and three times more likely to report anxiety, irritability and anger.
They were also at higher risk of sleep and relationship problems.
Dr Alison Wright, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “The potential impact of workforce burnout is crucial to our national health service and to patient care.
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“We know burnout is associated with worse outcomes for patients, as well as a lack of empathy and rapport.
“It is vital the issue of burnout is addressed, so we can sustainably deliver the very best care for our patients.”
The findings follow the revelations last week that dozens of babies and several mums died amid major failings at a hospital trust.
In the biggest maternity scandal in NHS history, blundering doctors, midwives and bosses worked unchecked in a “toxic” culture at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust for 40 years.