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BMA: Threat to GP occupational health services is ‘unacceptable’

The BMA has said it is ‘unacceptable’ GP occupational health services were in jeopardy, after managers confirmed to Pulse that GPs suffering mental exhaustion and stress will no longer be provided with any central funding for support unless there were formal concerns about their performance.

In a letter to the Department of Health the BMA called for specialist-led occupational health services to be provided for all NHS staff, and cited a Pulse survey that one in 11 GPs has taken time off work due to stress or burnout within the past 12 months.

The letter was sent before NHS England told Pulse the results of its review into occupational health services for GPs.

In the letter to Charlie Massey, DH director general for strategy and external relations, the BMA asked the DH to offer reassurance that all NHS staff will be able to access appropriate occupational health services going forward and that GP workload would be monitored more carefully.

The letter’s signatories Dr Paul Nicholson, the chair of the BMA’s occupational medicine committee, and GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said they were writing to the DH to ‘seek assurance that specialist-led occupational health services will be provided for all NHS staff’.

The letter read: ‘It is generally agreed that doctors face a large number of stressors, both occupational and individual; and seeking help is sometimes difficult due to complexities surrounding a doctor becoming a patient.

‘We believe that the stress caused by rising workloads and work intensity that many NHS staff are presently under is adding to the need for appropriate specialist-led occupational health services.’

‘We note a recent Pulse survey that demonstrates that one in 11 GPs has taken time of work due to stress or burnout within the past 12 months, and as many as a third expect to do so within the coming year. This echoes BMA work on this issue.’

The letter continued: ‘In spite of the many initiatives to guarantee occupational health services for all NHS staff and at a time when doctors face increased stress it is unacceptable that GP occupational health services are in jeopardy as the [DH] and NHS England review funding.’

The BMA concluded that it would ‘be happy to’ meet and discuss their concerns in the hope the DH would be able to reassure them.

The letter also cited a Pulse investigation that found almost half of GPs are at risk of burnout and concluded: ‘We do hope that you will be able to reassure us that the [DH] values the role of these services and will ensure that there is better monitoring of GP workload and more consistent access to appropriate occupational health services for all NHS staff.’