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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Over 500 GPs seek out mental health support service in first four months

A dedicated treatment service for GP mental health already has a caseload of over 500 patients, despite only launching at the end of January.

Some 508 GPs are now registered as active cases with the service, after it had some 50 GPs seek treatment already in the first week of its launch.

Following lenghty lobbying for Government funding - including via Pulse's Battling Burnout campaign - any registered GP in England with a mental health issue may refer themselves to the service by phone or online.

The GP Health Service chief executive Lucy Warner said that the numbers were 'higher than expected but not excessive’.

She added: 'It is great that so many GPs and GP trainees are accessing the support they need.'

The service, run by the Practitioner Health Service (PHP) handles the majority of patients internally through a multidisciplinary team of clinicians experienced in treating health professionals.

The team includes GPs, psychiatrists, specialist nurse practitioners and a range of therapists, and as a result their external referrals are very low.

Ms Warner said: ‘Occasionally we refer for in-patient addiction care but this is tiny numbers... One of the key things for the service is to support doctors when they need to self-disclose and to do so safely.

‘GPs are under pressure and unlikely to access mainstream NHS services when they need support, primarily due to issues of stigma and confidentiality.'

The PHP has only notified employers or regulators on a ‘handful of occasions', according to Ms Warner, who emphasised that these occurred because the patient was unwilling or unable to self-disclose.

‘We would never notify the regulator without the knowledge of the doctor,’ she said.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The [large number of GPs seeking help] comes as no surprise as GPs are working under intolerable pressure and strain and at a time when eight out of 10 GPs do not feel that they can provide safe, quality care.

'I suspect that this is the tip of the iceberg – large number of GPs are struggling on a daily basis to cope with incredible stress, such as regulatory pressures.’

Professor Clare Gerada, a GP in South East London and a PHP medical director, has previously said that 'practice meltdown’ is the biggest driver for GP’s seeking help, suffering from conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The GP mental health service

The service is commissioned by NHS England as part of the General Practice Five Year View and is intended to improve recruitment, retention and returns to general practice.

The majority of cases so far concern common mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, OCD or PTSD. Around one in ten relate to a major mental health issue such as psychosis, bipolar disorder or an addiction.

A forerunner to the service, the Practitioner Health Programme (PHP), has been running for nine years offerings mental health support to doctors and dentists in London.

The service is not intended to be a replacement for conventional NHS services, and GPs currently receiving treatment from mainstream services are encouraged to continue to do so.

Contact details can also be accessed via the 'Help Me I'm a Doctor' portal a tool set up by a range of medical charities and aimed at helping doctors find the right support.

 

Readers' comments (6)

  • Cobblers

    So the job is making GPs ill?

    Popes being catholic and Bears pooping in the woods spring to mind.

    I have been out of GMS GP for 9 months. I spent this afternoon-evening doing about 15 miles along some gorgeous coastline on my bike. I felt blessed and at peace with the world. I am working tomorrow and I do not feel pressured. I enjoy it. There is as much or as little of GP as I want. It is paid very well indeed.

    Take the plunge. The water is lovely. GP is lovely, just not on the government's terms.

    Maybe I can start a peloton along the shoreline. :-)

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  • Vinci Ho

    It is true that the only reason why the whole service is just about to hold is down to the dedications of those on the frontline and the government deserves nothing , nothing at all.
    As Martika sang :
    ''Step by step, heart to heart, left right left
    We all fall down like toy soldiers
    Bit by bit, torn apart, we never win
    But the battle wages on for toy soldiers.''
    Eminem added further:
    ''I'm supposed to be the soldier who never blows his composure
    Even though I hold the weight of the whole world on my shoulders
    I ain't never supposed to show it, my crew ain't supposed to know it.''
    (Somebody in GMC said something similar ).
    The PM said so much about looking after people's mental health but it was her own party which created this chaos .
    As Alanis Morissete sang:
    ''An old man turned ninety-eight
    He won the lottery and died the next day
    It's a black fly in your Chardonnay
    It's a death row pardon two minutes too late
    Isn't it ironic, don't you think''

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  • help drive the profession down and do nothing to fight back (even though it was your job) until the people you represent cannot work the job and then be in charge of a government well funded mental health support unit.
    I feel stupid for not thinking this up in the first place. hats off to you.

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  • GP recruitment | Locum GP17 May 2017 11:43am

    Very unfair and inaccurate on CG.

    I think the entirety of medicine is up the creek and despite many peoples best attempts the system is collapsing. the only lesson is that people who are trying to save the system are killing themselves doing it

    Unlike SF who is actively seeking to undermine his profession with his 'good intentions'!

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  • Isn't this equivalent to burning someone's house down, then afterwards, offering them a small damp blanket and a cold cup of tea?

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  • Spot on Doctosaurus!Privatisation is the way forward. The "free" service is not appreciated and open to abuse.

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