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Analysis: 'This is going to exacerbate the problem'

The uncertainty over occupational health services for GPs is not going to help the current situation of rising stress, says Dr Mark Sanford-Wood

In Devon and Cornwall we have a very, very good occupational health service, which has been supported by all the PCTs for well over a decade. We have been very happy with it. It is integrated with LMC pastoral services and where appropriate has also been integrated with performance monitoring aspects of what PCTs did. It is very much a joined up service.

The real worry is after 1 April. To my understanding there is no direct mapping of those occupational health functions to [transfer to] either CCGs or the Local Area Teams, which is a concern.

It is a huge concern, and we have been asking these questions for months.

It is not difficult to draw matrix of current functions and then ask where they match to in the new structure. The new structure has been known since the Health and Social Care Act was passed, and here we are, five weeks away and we don’t know where some quite important pieces of function are going to be situated.

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If you are going to have an occupational health scheme that works then it needs to be professionally run and needs to be staffed with people who are trained in occupational health. That is the most basic reason why it is important [to have a dedicated service set up].

From the point of view of why it is important right now, it is because there is such change going on, and people feel very uncertain about the future, about their position, we have the contract imposition to arrive. There is already an increase in the number of referrals to LMC pastoral networks. These are all markers in the system of rising stress.

We already have workforce issues, and if we allow people to fall out of the workforce because of this stress, and because we are not supporting them, then we are just going to exacerbate the problem. It is incredibly short-sighted.

Dr Mark Sanford-Wood is a GP in Devon and chair of Devon LMC

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