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GPs to access free burnout service from January 2017

GPs will be able to access a free confidential service to provide them with psychotherapy assessment and treatment from January 2017, NHS England has announced today.

The service, which NHS England chief executive said was a result of Pulse’s Battling Burnout campaign, will cost £19.5 million – an increase on the £16 million originally announced.

Under the service, GPs will be able to access face-to-face support across 13 regions in England for general psychiatric assessment and treatment, addiction related health problems and one-to-one and group psychotherapy sessions.

It will be run by the Hurley Clinic Partnership, whose partner Professor Clare Gerada currently provides the NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP).

Dr Gerada also told Pulse that they were working to make sure the existing PHP service could be opened up to doctors from outside London before the new year, so they could immediately begin supporting those who needed help most.

The new national service will be accessible via a confidential national self-referral phone line, website and app, NHS England says.

GPs and trainees will be able to seek information about the services available, access self-help tools and access clinical support.

An NHS England statement said: ‘The service is the world’s first nationally-funded health service of its kind for general practice, a clear signal of NHS England’s commitment to help retain a healthy and resilient workforce and in supporting GPs and GP trainees who wish to remain in or return to clinical practice after a period of ill health.’

Pulse first launched its Battling Burnout campaign in 2013, with a survey of 1,800 GPs finding that 46% are at high risk of burnout.

In May 2014, NHS England chair Professor Malcolm Grant said it would offer a ‘comprehensive’ burnout service for GPs.

However, it was only a year later – in September 2015 – that Mr Stevens confirmed plans for a new ‘national specification’ for the service.

And in April 2016, the GP Forward View said that NHS England would devote £16 million funding to the burnout service.

But the latest announcement has revealed that it will increase the funding to £19.5 million, with the extra coming from ’Primary Care Transformation funding’, NHS England said.

Dr Gerada told Pulse: ‘This really is good news, it’s the first time – I think anywhere in the world – that public money has been put toward supporting a profession in this way.

‘And we’re going to try and develop, right from prevention to treatment, a whole range of services right across the country.’

‘The national service will only be for GPs, unlike the PHP service in London which is for all clinicians, and will go live in the regions in January, but Dr Gerada told Pulse: ‘Even before then, if there are struggling GPs able to travel to London before we get the system up and running across the country, then we can try and accommodate that early. They don’t need to suffer in silence now. We can start address those who need our help the most immediately, not today or tomorrow, but hopefully in the next two to three weeks.’

‘There’s no bad about this, it’s really good for GPs, and it’s right to recognise Pulse for [their work on this].’