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5% of GPs have sought help from mental health service

Over 5% of GPs in England have sought help for their mental health from the GP Health Service over the past two and a half years.

The free and confidential service, which launched in January 2017, provides mental health support for any GP or GP trainee via a national self-referral phone line and website.

Since it began, 2,314 GPs have been assessed and treated through the service, according to the Practitioner Health Programme (PHP), which equates to just over 5% of the total GP workforce in England. 

Of these, 69% were fully-qualified GPs, and 31% were GP trainees.

Medical director at PHP, Dr Clare Gerada, said these figures were ‘very sad’.

She added: ‘My profession is suffering. There has to be action specifically targeted at them to stop this distress. We might need a paradign shift in how GPs work, funded and managed.’

Deputy medical director at PHP, Dr Zaid Al-Najjar, said the reasons GPs contact the service are ‘often’ related to problems within the practice, such as workload.

He said: ‘The reasons GPs contact the service are very varied but often they are related to problems within the practices they work in. For example, where other GPs have left/retired which increases the workload for those left behind.

‘We also see newly qualified GPs who present with anxiety having been used to working in a supported, relatively well protected environment as trainees but then moving into less supportive posts, for example locum work which can be isolating and present new risks which they are not used to dealing with alone.’

He added: ‘Some GPs soldier on and just about manage to continue functioning under increasing work pressures, but then experience something like a complaint or adverse event which leads to a significant deterioration in their mood – the straw that broke the camel’s back.’

The service offers tailored treatment plans for each GP, depending on individual circumstances, which can include psychotherapy, group support and therapy as well as medication.

Last month, Dr Clare Gerada and Dr Kailash Chand called for a system-wide change to prevent suicide among GPs.

It also follows a petition asking for a cap on safe working hours by GP Dr Anshumen Bhagat, after the suicide of GP Dr George Porteous from Lockerbie Medical Centre, Scotland, in September.