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Sick doctors scheme wins stay of execution

By Gareth Iacobucci

A group set up to support and retain sick GPs and other doctors within the NHS has been granted a stay of execution after NHS bosses agreed to extend its funding until the end of the financial year.

The Practitioner Health Programme, formed in 2008, had been preparing to stop taking new patients from December after failing to secure new funding from the Department of Health.

But the service, which has treated more than 400 doctors and dentists in London, more than three quarters of whom have remained in or returned to work, has been given a funding boost from NHS London, which will allow it to spend longer seeking alternative funding from April 2011.

Dr Claire Gerada, RCGP chair and medical director of the programme, welcomed the last-minute intervention.

‘We've secured the funding from NHS London until the end of the financial year, there's no indication beyond that,' she said. 'We are absolutely delighted because that gives us a bit more time to look at getting more secure funding, while NHS London has other things that are preoccupying them at the moment such as the reorganisation.'

Dr Gerada said the preservation of a free, confidential service for doctors in the capital with mental or physical health concerns or addiction problems was essential given the added burdens being placed upon GPs.

She said: ‘They intervened because it's such a valuable service. It is particularly important that it stays at the moment because of the fact that GPs are having to take on more and more responsibility and the pressure on them is more and more intense.'

The scheme for supporting sick GPs has won a stay of execution from NHS bosses The scheme for supporting sick GPs has won a stay of execution from NHS bosses

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