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Postcode lottery in occupational health support for GPs ‘extremely worrying’

The postcode lottery of GP occupational health support is ‘extremely worrying’ and the profession should receive the same provision as those working in the rest of the health service, says NHS Health at Work.

The NHS representative body for occupational health specialists said that GPs often worked in ‘difficult and complex’ conditions and that the NHS needed to value their contribution better.

Pulse revealed last week that GPs across almost a third of England have no access at all to occupational health services, while the support available elsewhere varies starkly.

In a letter to Pulse, chair of NHS Health at Work Dr Anne de Bono supported one of the main aims of Pulse’s Battling Burnout campaign – consistent occupational health support for GPs – taxpayer-funded and nationwide.

She said: ’It is extremely worrying if a third of GPs have no access to occupational health support and not just for those practitioners who are “burnt-out”.

‘Occupational health is important and should be available for all NHS staff; those working in primary care should receive the same overall provision as their colleagues in secondary care.’

‘GPs and other primary care staff work in difficult and complex conditions that are full of risk. For the NHS to be effective we need to recognise, value and reward the contribution made by staff and ensure that they are healthy, well and looked after.

‘There is good evidence that where NHS organisations prioritise staff health and wellbeing, performance is enhanced, patient care improves, staff retention is higher and sickness absence is lower.’

A Pulse survey of 441 GPs last month found one in eight respondents had sought help from pastoral or wellbeing services within the past year, with one GP spending almost £2,000 on private psychotherapy after finding it difficult to handle his workload.

A separate Pulse assessment earlier in the year of almost 1,800 GPs using the validated Maslach Burnout Inventory tool found that 43% are classified as being at a very high risk of developing burnout, with partners and those working in deprived areas particularly badly hit. Pulse is lobbying for better monitoring of GP workload and consistent occupational health support for GPs – taxpayer-funded and nationwide – as part of its Battling Burnout campaign.