GPs have warned that a ‘career saving’ occupational health and support service may have to close in a year’s time because it will have used up its reserves of funding, Pulse has learned.
The Devon and Cornwall occupational health service, currently operated by out-of-hours provider Devon Doctors, has told Pulse it is ‘running on a year to year basis’ and urged clarity from NHS England over how funding would be made available.
Devon Doctors took over providing occupational health services for GPs after central funding for the ‘gold-standard’ service in the South-West peninsula was pulled.
In April, it implemented a new self-funding scheme offering GPs comprehensive occupational and mental health support for £150 a year.
But Devon Doctor’s chief executive Chris Wright told Pulse: ‘We’re running on a year to year basis. So we expect to be able to provide it for next year. Obviously we’ll look and see how many people are contributing in to the service, we’ll look and see if there’s any additional money coming in from the centre, and we’ll be putting our own money in to subsidise this as well. Because it is important, it has saved careers.
He added: ’We are planning on going for one more year 2016/17 – but that uses up all funding we had available to maintain this initiative.’
As part of its Battling Burnout campaign, Pulse has called for NHS England to support existing ‘gold standard’ occupational health schemes, and implement comprehensive mental health support for GPs nationwide.
NHS England announced in September it was investing £5m in a programme to improve staff health and welfare, which will include extending schemes ‘to help GPs stay healthy and get back to work when sick’.
But Mr Wright added: ‘We don’t know if the funding from NHS England’s practitioner health programme will come to us, or a separate scheme. It would be helpful to know, and to get guidance on exactly what that money is going to be spent on, what type of initiative it will be and what process we will have to go through to bid for that money. But we don’t know.’