‘Practice meltdown’ is the biggest driver for GP’s seeking help with mental health issues, according to Professor Clare Gerada, London GP and NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) medical director.
Anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are the most common conditions seen by the PHP, which was rolled out nationally earlier this year with NHS England funding.
Professor Gerada said that a variety of different circumstances could lead to ‘practice meltdown’ but the situation was driven by GPs having their workload suddenly multiply due to circumstances beyond their control.
She said: ‘It could be that one or two of the older GPs have retired, one might be on maternity leave or long term sick leave and that’s left two doctors usually in their mid-forties trying to hold a practice of 8-12,000.
And guess what? They suffer, because what they do to try and hold it all together is work harder and harder and harder. They go in at weekends, they go in after hours, they do 14-15 hour days.
‘They might approach NHS England which will say you can’t close your list. And then something happens, one of those two doctors can’t get the locums, shouts at a receptionist or just sits in front of a computer and cries.’
Professor Gerada said that the service had seen a high uptake since it launched earlier this year.
She said: ‘I always anticipated we would see large numbers but even I have been surprised by the demand. in the first four weeks we saw 20% of what we have been commissioned to see in a year.’
GPs who have used the services of the PHP include those facing stress due to CQC inspections, young locum GPs and GPs dealing with life events or addictions.