NHS England’s £16 million GP mental health support service is already a month behind schedule, after managers were slow to launch the procurement process for a new national provider.
The GP Forward View pledged that procurement for the new service ‘will start in June 2016’ and it was expected to be ‘available across England from December 2016’.
But the invitation to tender for the ‘NHS GP Health Service’, led by Arden and Greater East Midlands Commissioning Support Unit was not published until 6 July.
It adds that the ‘anticipated timeline milestones’ will now see the contract start date pushed to 17 October with the service expected to be live by January 2017.
The four and a half year contract is worth a maximum of £19million, or at least £9million.
Funding comes from the original £3.5 million pledged in last year’s announcements aimed at improving the health of NHS staff, and the further £16 million for GP mental health pledged in the Forward View.
The contract tender states: ‘NHS England is commissioning the NHS GP Health service to support practitioners working in general practice who may be suffering from mental ill-health including stress and burnout and supporting those wishing to return to clinical practice after a period of ill health.’
The four key objectives of the service are:
- To retain a healthy workforce and support return to clinical practice after a period of sickness
- To reduce the perception of stigma amongst GPs who may be helped presently, or in the future, through accessing mental health services
- Maintain a visible nationally consistent offer across England
- To promote easy and timely access the service, ensuring Service User confidence and confidentiality
The service, which will be built on the same model as London’s Practitioner Health Programme, is expected to set a national minimum standard for supports, but can be tailored to local needs.
Since 2013, Pulse’s Battling Burnout campaign has been calling for comprehensive mental health support to be available to all GPs and unveiling the growing number of GPs struggling with workload stress and becoming at risk of debilitating burnout.