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How Pulse’s campaign won mental health support for GPs

All GPs are finally to get mental health support, following Pulse’s campaign. Alex Matthews-King reports

Burnout SUO 3X2

Burnout SUO 3X2

NHS England is investing £16m in mental health support for struggling GPs, as part of a new national service, representing a major victory for Pulse’s long-running Battling Burnout campaign.

The General Practice Forward View says all GPs in England will have access to free and confidential local support for mental health issues, stress and burnout.

Battling Burnout Logo

Battling Burnout Logo 330x330

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul and former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada have all hailed it as a victory for Pulse’s vigorous campaigning on the issue.

NHS England said it expects the service to operate from December, with procurement due to start in June. The £16m is in addition to the £3.5m already announced for other occupational health facilities, such as GP access to needlestick services and the ability to self-refer for assessment of their fitness to work.

The Battling Burnout campaign has been calling for comprehensive mental health support since 2013, backed up by two of the largest surveys of GP stress in the UK. Pulse’s survey of more than 2,200 GPs last year found that 50% were at a high risk of burnout, an increase of four percentage points on the same survey in 2013. Three-quarters of GPs said they felt emotionally exhausted, while 25% felt a low sense of personal accomplishment.

Pulse wrote to NHS England with the findings, but it has taken managers until now to set a timetable for the new service.

Mr Stevens said: ‘This is a great win for Pulse. You campaigned, we listened. For a lot of individuals, that is going to make a huge difference.’

The Forward View document says its £16m service means all GPs will be able to access ‘free, confidential local support and treatment for mental health issues, supporting GPs who are at risk of suffering stress or burnout’.

Speaking after the launch of the report, Professor Gerada said: ‘Can I congratulate Pulse, they have been instrumental in the burnout issue. A lot of us have been pushing for this, but having a major GP newspaper is very good. It’s exceptionally good news, as long as it’s delivered.’

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘A year ago, when we raised the issue it was like hitting a brick wall in terms of getting funding for [mental health support]. So in that sense I do think your campaign has raised the importance of addressing GPs’ stress and burnout.’ But he warned that ‘we need to see it translated into reality’.

How the campaign was won

April 2013

Pulse launches its Battling Burnout campaign

pulse cover jun 2013 159x200px

pulse cover jun 2013 159x200px

June 2013

Pulse’s survey of 1,800 GPs finds 46% of GPs are at high risk of burnout. The BMA’s annual representatives meeting votes to look at the issue

September 2013

Pulse reveals internal NHS data showing GPs across almost a third of England have no access to occupational health services, with patchy support available elsewhere

January 2014

NHS England announces it will no longer fund any occupational health support for GPs suffering exhaustion and stress unless there are performance issues

January 2014

Pulse writes to NHS England chair Professor Malcolm Grant urging him to reconsider this decision

May 2014

Professor Grant responds to Pulse, saying NHS England will roll back on its previous decision and fund a comprehensive service

January 2015

Pulse reveals that NHS England has pulled funding from a ‘gold standard’ occupational health service in South West England

pulse cover jun 2015 159x200px

pulse cover jun 2015 159x200px

June 2015

A major follow-up Pulse survey of 2,230 UK GPs shows 50% at high risk of burnout

July 2015

RCGP warns fatigue is endangering patient safety

September 2015

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens announces new ‘national service specification’ to help GPs with ‘burnout and stress’ from April 2016

April 2016

The General Practice Forward View finally specifies funding for mental health counselling and support, to be rolled out from December 2016

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