Young doctors are being attacked on social media by patients, a leading medic has warned.
The rise in online abuse from patients and lobby groups is creating an ‘increasingly cruel’ working environment for young doctors, according to Dr Gerada, who is now medical director of the NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP).
Calls to PHP, which supports stressed and depressed doctors, have doubled in recent times, with young medics making up most of the cases, she added.
Dr Clare Gerada, former chair of the Royal College of GPs, has urged millennial medics to take themselves off Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to avoid ‘vitriol’ and ‘hate’
Much of the trolling comes from informal forums where users are strongly opposed to certain medical practices, such as the prescription of antidepressants, Dr Gerada told The Telegraph.
Negative comments are often made in response to social media posts from doctors, she added.
‘Twitter is a place where people sit waiting to be offended and doctors are more likely to tweet things that people will get upset about,’ Dr Gerada, who has 42,800 followers on Twitter, said.
‘I will sometimes take myself off social media for a week because people have upset me and it hurts, it hurts emotionally for people to attack you.’
Dr Gerada added the pressure of online abuse is creating an increasingly stressful working environment for medics at a time when the risk of legal and disciplinary action among junior doctors is already higher than it once was.
The PHP was established to help medics with physical and mental health problems they feel unable to discuss with their employers.
Doctors often hide conditions such as depression and alcoholism because they are concerned it may affect their careers, Dr Gerada claimed.
Medics can be referred to the PHP by the General Medical Council; medicine’s official regulator.
Dr Gerada added getting confidential help is very difficult for doctors.
‘It’s the fear of it wrecking your career, as what tends to happen with doctors is that if they do disclose a mental illness it is never contained in just one person,’ she said.
The issues will be raised at the Wounded Healer Conference in London on Thursday and Friday.
This comes after figures released earlier this year suggested three GPs a day are seeking help for ‘meltdowns’ as they struggle to take on the workloads of growing doctor vacancies.
Some 981 GPs referred themselves to the GP Health Service, which was set up to help doctors suffering from stress or burnout, between the end of November last year and the service’s launch on January 30 2017.
‘Practice meltdown’ is the most common reason for self-referral, according to the service’s chief executive Lucy Warner.