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Sick doctors scheme to close doors to new patients as DH cuts funding

By Ian Quinn

An organisation set up to help prevent sick GPs and other doctors being lost to the NHS is preparing to stop taking new patients from December after failing to secure new funding.

The Practitioner Health Programme, formed in 2008, has treated more than 400 doctors and dentists in London, of whom more than three quarters have remained in or returned to work as a result.

But the Department of Health has pulled funding from the project, despite the success of the pilot, meaning it will shut down in April next year unless alternative funding can be found.

Dr Claire Gerada, RCGP chair-elect and medical director of the organisation, said it would be a human and financial tragedy if the organisation was allowed to fold.

‘It's very sad because it has helped so many doctors get back to work, or remain at work, which saves the NHS a huge amount of money and is a huge benefit to patient safety,' she said.

‘It ticks all the boxes but looks like it's being caught up in the cost-cutting process.'

She said the organisation, which provides a free, confidential service for doctors from the London area who have mental or physical health concerns or addiction problems, had now decided to approach NHS trusts for direct funding as a last resort.

‘The sort of funding we'd need from trusts would be between £30,000 - £80,000 a year,' she said. ‘If one doctor goes off sick for a year we estimate they will end up paying about £150,000. Unfortunately common sense doesn't always come into play.'

Dr Clare Gerada: Scheme 'ticks all the boxes but looks like it's being caught up in the cost-cutting process' Dr Clare Gerada: Scheme 'ticks all the boxes but looks like it's being caught up in the cost-cutting process'

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