The new national GP mental health service saw ‘a rush’ when it opened on Monday, according to its medical director.
The Practitioner Health Programme (PHP), the national contractor for the service commissioned by NHS England, said they are expecting more than 50 GPs to have reached out for support by the end of the first week.
The £16m GP mental health scheme was announced in last year’s GP Forward View in recognition of the need to support GPs at risk of, and suffering from, stress, burnout and mental health conditions and came after years of Pulse campaigning.
Professor Clare Gerada, PHP medical director, said: ‘We have seen a rush, but we are managing. We have had well into double figures ring and email.’
She said PHP expects to be approached by around 50 GPs per month once the service has bedded down, but added: ‘I imagine by the end of the week we would have had more than a month in a week.’
Professor Gerada also told Pulse that PHP will focus the early development of the programme in northern England to combat significant ‘unmet need’ for support in that region.
This will begin with a burnout prevention day in York on 11 February.
The national launch comes as the London PHP service has already seen 10% of the London GP population, according to Professor Gerada.
She added: ‘Nationally, we’re focusing on the North, because we think there’s a lot of unmet need.
‘We are focusing York upwards to start with. We have got doctors and therapists and we’re really trying to mobilise up there in a big way.’
GPs who were able to travel to London have been able to receive support since PHP was named national provider, and Professor Gerada said ‘double figures’ of GPs had also done this.
She added that PHP is hoping to be able to gather evidence via the scheme about the causes of GP stress and burnout, such as for example regulatory burden.
The launch comes after years of Pulse lobbying through the Battling Burnout campaign – which unveiled worrying levels of stress and burnout in the GP community.
Pulse also revealed that NHS England was defunding regional mental health services, despite worsening mental health among GP professionals.