Exclusive GP leaders have backed Pulse’s call for NHS England to reconsider its decision to axe funding for occupational health support for GPs and have co-signed an open letter to urge managers to change their minds.
GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul and RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker have agreed to co-sign an open letter from Pulse to NHS England chair Professor Malcolm Grant urging him to intervene.
The letter has also been co-signed by more than 100 GPs and also officially supported by the BMA, the RCGP, the National Association of Primary Care and the Family Doctor Association.
NHS England revealed last month that GPs across England suffering exhaustion and stress will no longer be provided with any centrally funded occupational health support unless there are formal concerns about their performance.
Managers confirmed that their review into the occupational health services formerly provided by PCTs in England will recommend that all universal funding is withdrawn for all GPs from April.
It comes despite figures released by Pulse showing almost half of GPs are at risk of burnout and an DH-commissioned paper showing GPs are suffering the highest levels of stress recorded since 1998.
The open letter from Pulse says: ‘Given the cost of training a GP, and the current ongoing recruitment crisis, it cannot be cost-effective for the NHS as a whole to risk losing experienced doctors who with the right support offered in a timely, pre-emptive fashion might be retained.’
The letter marks the latest stage in Pulse’s ‘Battling Burnout’ campaign launched last summer, sparking a national debate over the problem of GP burnout and how to tackle this crucial issue.
Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘I am happy to support this important campaign. All patients in England depend on there being robust, effective general practice. And robust, effective general practice is dependent on there being enough GPs who are up to the task and fit to practise.
‘GPs make an enormous contribution to the health of the nation – its important that our health and wellbeing is valued by the NHS for which we work.’
Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was ‘illogical’ and ‘short-sighted’ for NHS England to withdraw funding.
He added: ‘This letter just goes to show the level of feeling from those GPs on the ground, and I hope that NHS England and the Department of Health understand that it is unacceptable that occupational health services for all GPs are in jeopardy.’
NAPC and NHS Clinical Commissioners chair Dr Charles Alessi said: ‘Good and comprehensive workplace health is essential especially for GPs who are very vulnerable to the effects of working in an environment where they are managing complexity and uncertainty all through their working lives. In these times of austerity, the economic arguments alone suggest we should be investing in workplace health schemes and building on the best of what we have.’
Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard said: ‘It shows how little NHS England values GPs if this service is removed for GPs while remaining for all hospital doctors. The worm will turn if it is taken for granted.’