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BMA demands occupational health services are funded in full

The BMA’s representative body has demanded that NHS managers fund full occupational health support for practice staff and trainees, alongside their commitment to GPs

NHS England agreed in May to fund occupational health support for every GP who needs it, following a campaign by Pulse that highlighted the burnout faced by GPs, and the lack of support services.

However, it refused to extend funding to services for practice staff or trainees, who have to pay for their own occupational health support.

The BMA passed a motion by an overwhelming majority deploring the decision to fund support services ‘only for GPs who have performance issues’, and still charging trainees for any use of services.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said that it was ‘time for NHS England to get its head out of the sand’.

He said that the services offered by the Department of Health was ‘patchy’ but added ‘at least there were services on offer’.

However, since NHS England has taken responsibility, the services have gone downhill, he said.

He said: ‘Instead of levelling up, we have seen a shameful and penny-pinching attempt to reduce even below the lowest standard and remove the service from practice staff unless they have needlestick injury.

‘Even the service offered to GPs will be for performance issues instead of a genuinely supportive and useful service helping the growing number of doctors facing work related issues.’

He added: ‘It is time for NHS England to get its head out of the sand. They must level up occupational health centres, not cut them down.’

Dr Vautrey told Pulse the primary focus of the new service is on performance issues.

He added: ‘[NHS England] have yet to be clear how much additionally there will be. They talked of describing a framework for local area teams to use to commission a local service.  We’ve not seen that yet but fear it will be very limited, hence the encouragement for them to do more.’ 

Pulse is currently calling on GPs to sign a letter urging NHS England to address the causes of GP burnout, as part of the next stage of the campaign for better support for the profession.

Motion in full

i.deplores the government decision to no longer fund an occupational health service for GP practices (unless there is a performance issue)

ii.deplores the government decision that requires trainee general practitioners to now fund their own occupational health assessment before they can start work

iii.calls on GPC to strive for continued funding to maintain a high quality, long term service to GPs and their staff

iv.demands that NHS England ensure a comprehensive occupational health service is made available to all members of staff in GP practices

v.demands that NHS England ensure a comprehensive occupational health service is made available to all locum GPs on the performers lists.