Background: The provision of mental health care for older people will become increasingly important with rising demand related to global demographic changes. This project aimed to identify changes in work patterns of UK consultant old age psychiatrists between 1993 and 2012.
Method: A link to an online questionnaire was circulated to consultant old age psychiatrists through the Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry, Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Results: In all 210 usable responses were received. On the survey day 71% of old age psychiatrists arrived at work before 9 am, and 40% left work after 6 pm. Over one-third (35%) worked for another hour or more at home. The range of activities was broader than previously reported. Administrative activity was undertaken by over 60% and acute ward work by only 26%. Few consultants reported time in long-stay care or day hospitals. Outpatient activity included Memory Clinics and Health Center Clinics. The main stressors reported by consultants were lack of resources and pressures from management-imposed, financially driven service changes. Relationships with people at work (including patients and their families) and outside work were the main identified support.
Conclusions: Consultants’ working hours have changed little since 1997, but the range and emphases of activities have changed. Changes in service organization are stressful and consultants are supported by relationships with colleagues and patients. Work patterns are changing in response to demands and constraints on the specialty. Research is needed into service design and work patterns, which can provide humane care in the current economic climate.