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GPs to access free burnout service from January 2017

GPs will be able to access a free confidential service to provide them with psychotherapy assessment and treatment from January 2017, NHS England has announced today.

The service, which NHS England chief executive said was a result of Pulse’s Battling Burnout campaign, will cost £19.5 million – an increase on the £16 million originally announced.

Under the service, GPs will be able to access face-to-face support across 13 regions in England for general psychiatric assessment and treatment, addiction related health problems and one-to-one and group psychotherapy sessions.

It will be run by the Hurley Clinic Partnership, whose partner Professor Clare Gerada currently provides the NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP).

Dr Gerada also told Pulse that they were working to make sure the existing PHP service could be opened up to doctors from outside London before the new year, so they could immediately begin supporting those who needed help most.

The new national service will be accessible via a confidential national self-referral phone line, website and app, NHS England says.

GPs and trainees will be able to seek information about the services available, access self-help tools and access clinical support.

An NHS England statement said: ‘The service is the world’s first nationally-funded health service of its kind for general practice, a clear signal of NHS England’s commitment to help retain a healthy and resilient workforce and in supporting GPs and GP trainees who wish to remain in or return to clinical practice after a period of ill health.’

Pulse first launched its Battling Burnout campaign in 2013, with a survey of 1,800 GPs finding that 46% are at high risk of burnout.

In May 2014, NHS England chair Professor Malcolm Grant said it would offer a ‘comprehensive’ burnout service for GPs.

However, it was only a year later – in September 2015 – that Mr Stevens confirmed plans for a new ‘national specification’ for the service.

And in April 2016, the GP Forward View said that NHS England would devote £16 million funding to the burnout service.

But the latest announcement has revealed that it will increase the funding to £19.5 million, with the extra coming from ’Primary Care Transformation funding’, NHS England said.

Dr Gerada told Pulse: ‘This really is good news, it’s the first time - I think anywhere in the world - that public money has been put toward supporting a profession in this way.

‘And we’re going to try and develop, right from prevention to treatment, a whole range of services right across the country.’

‘The national service will only be for GPs, unlike the PHP service in London which is for all clinicians, and will go live in the regions in January, but Dr Gerada told Pulse: ‘Even before then, if there are struggling GPs able to travel to London before we get the system up and running across the country, then we can try and accommodate that early. They don’t need to suffer in silence now. We can start address those who need our help the most immediately, not today or tomorrow, but hopefully in the next two to three weeks.’

‘There’s no bad about this, it’s really good for GPs, and it’s right to recognise Pulse for [their work on this].’



Readers' comments (36)

  • Will face to face contact be available outside of the M25 though? Phone lines already exist.

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  • Cynic mode on - No. You can't resign / reduce workload / change working patterns because of workload & stress. You cannot have those problems because we have set up a helpline and you have not contacted it or they will help you cope with the workload - cynic mode off

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  • Mr Mephisto

    It cant come soon enough. I'm not sure I will be able to survive until January!

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  • This is disgraceful, no employer could get away with this, it is only because GPs are self employed and therefore NHS England escapes legal and moral responsibility that it gets away with this.

    If an employer is causing breakdwons and burn-outs of its staff, it can not get around it by having a helpline. The only cure, legally and morally, is to stop whatever is causing the burnout.

    But GPs and their useless chocolate teapot union are too timid to see this.

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  • It is the business model of the NHS that causes the burnout. GP's are on a block contract with no safety valve to curb demand, payment by activity would prevent burnout as there would be a financial incentive to absorb the work and pay someone else to do it. Until that changes having a helpline or visiting a counsellor without backfill just means more burnout as the work does not go away.

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  • This is a great idea but the service will be over run. It's also a bit ironic that patients doctors care for, have to wait 12 months for psychology as there aren't enough. Where are these psychotherapists coming from?

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  • Forgive my cynicism, or is this not an 'establishment helping establishment' move...

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • Dear Clare, the "bad" thing about this is that it has become necessary at all. Just like Hunt and his 4 (currently) years' obligatory NHS commitment, it is addressing the adverse results of the current system rather than fixing the cause.

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  • Many good things about helping stressed sick doctors overcome barriers and access services they need.

    BUT as with all working people, unless combined with evidence based advice and action on reducing workplace risks by responsible employer will not address fundamental problems - that's why access to occupational medicine is needed!

    Richard Heron
    President, Faculty Occ Medicine

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  • As a psychotherapist with many years experience of working with doctors, I am clear (a) that there may be other, private and personal factors involved in psychological problems and at the same time that (b) no therapist worth his/her salt would treat burnout/stress without trying to support and encourage their client to take the problem where it belongs - unions, managers, etc. I hope this service provides proper, anonymous and confidential feedback channels for the issues its therapists encounter and that they will be properly briefed so that they do not make the mistake of blaming the patient for the system's failings.

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