PCTs defy deadline to aid stressed GPs
Stressed GPs are being left without support because one in five PCTs has misspent Government cash allocated for their care.
The BMA last week launched a naming and shaming exercise after its survey of English LMCs exposed the postcode lottery facing GPs with mental health problems.
Some 37 PCTs have defied two Government deadlines to introduce comprehensive occupational health care for GPs and their staff. A further 29 trusts were accused of offering 'patchy' services.
The findings led to claims that GPs with mental health problems are being forced to lean on colleagues for support because they have nowhere else to turn.
The areas named for failing to set up any scheme include two where workplace stress has been blamed for recent GP suicides Bolton, where Dr Dawn Harris practised, and north Cumbria, where Dr Stephen Thornhill was a GP.
Dr Niall McGreevy, vice-chair of North Cumbria LMC, said: 'The importance of establishing an occupational health service was made all the more clear to us when our colleague died. It's difficult to say he would not have died if a service was in place, but we would
not like to wait for something like that to happen again.'
Bolton PCT said it did have a service but admitted it was 'minimal' and many GPs may not have been aware of it.
In Redbridge and Waltham Forest, occupational health services are available to PCT staff but not to GPs.
LMC chair Dr Terry John said: 'It's quite alarming that issues have come up of doctors feeling very pressured and stressed and they have to turn to one another for help.'
Bradford LMC secretary Dr John Givans said the three local PCTs had failed to provide services despite pressure from GPs. 'We are very concerned. There must be a service that GPs will trust as confidential. Doctors are afraid of management getting to know they have problems.'
The Government has allocated £20 million over the past three years for occupational health for primary care staff. GPC chair Dr John Chisholm said: 'The money has been spent elsewhere.'
The Department of Health, which gave PCTs a deadline of December 2002 to set up services, pledged to investigate any evidence of failure to do so.