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Patients need to be more ‘accountable’ for their health, suggests GP mental health lead

The lack of accountability among NHS patients is contributing to making GPs ill, the medical director of the national GP mental health service has suggested.

Professor Clare Gerada, medical director of the national GP Health Service, argued that while GPs have to give up their ‘nostalgia’ and adapt to the changing NHS, patients also need to take more responsibility.

Speaking at today’s Westminster Health Forum on the future of general practice, Professor Gerada said nearly 1,000 GPs with issues such as anxiety, depression and addiction have now come through the service which was launched in January.

According to Professor Gerada, the GP Health Service ‘is making doctors better’, but she argued that to improve mental health among GPs on the whole, ‘we need a new kind of practice, a new kind of doctor and a new kind of patient’.

She said practices and GPs needed to stop working ‘in isolation’ as this was a common driver making doctors sick. Meanwhile, GPs should be ‘given time’ to adapt to the changing NHS and coming up with their own solutions, making use of new technology and newly-available support staff such as practice pharmacists and physician associates.

But she added: ‘If we are going to improve the health and wellbeing [of GPs] we also need a new kind of patient… I don’t think we can let patients off the hook.

‘I think now, if patients want to have authority – which they are quite right to have authority over their own health – they need to also start having accountability…

‘Because part of the problem at the moment is that all the accountability lies with the doctor… and the authority lies with the patient “I want this, I want that”, but if it goes wrong then if bounces back to me.’

Professor Gerada said concluded by saying that while GPs have been ‘stuck on a merry-go-round of misery’ she hopes the GP Health Service and other measures from NHS England’s GP Forward View rescue package will instead ‘instil hope’ in the next generation of GPs.

Her comments come as a recent Pulse survey of over 800 GPs revealed that the stress of general practice has affected the ability of almost half of GPs to care for patients, while one in seven has turned to alcohol or drugs to cope.

The launch of the GP Health Service followed years of Pulse lobbying via the Battling Burnout campaign.