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NHS launches GP Health Service to address stress and burnout

Depressed man

30 January 2017

GPs and GP trainees in England suffering mental ill health and addiction can now find support through the NHS GP Health Service - the first nationally-funded provision of its kind.

The service, which went live on 30 January, is confidential and free to access. It allows GPs and trainees to self-refer and connect with clinicians and therapists across a network of 13 localities, for help with:

  • mental health conditions, including those relating to a physical health issue
  • substance misuse
  • rehabilitation and return to work following a period of mental ill health.

Treatment available includes general psychiatric support and treatment; support for addiction-related problems; psychological therapies, such as CBT; psychotherapy; group therapy, and access to local groups and interventions addressing specific issues.

The initiative is part of a commitment outlined in the NHS England General Practice Forward View, to support general practice and address stress and burnout within the profession.

The service is available 8am-8pm weekdays and 8am-2pm Saturdays, and can be accessed via the website, by email or by calling 0300 0303 300.

MDU advice

We support thousands of GPs with responding to complaints and investigations each year, seeing first-hand the personal stresses doctors can face.

As increasing workloads and high patient demands take their toll, a fear of stigma and concerns about confidentiality can make doctors unwilling to seek help. The MDU welcomes the GP Health Service as providing a much-needed means for GPs to find timely, personal support.

Doctors who are unwell or struggling to cope may not be able to practise at their usual level, which unfortunately means they may be more susceptible to errors and complaints - making it even more important for GPs and GP trainees to look after themselves and ask for help when needed.

We offer the following advice for GPs struggling with mental health issues:

  • Talk to colleagues if you are worried about your health. They will understand the strain you are under and may also be able to spot if this is beginning to affect your performance. You should be willing to listen and respond to their concerns.
  • You have an ethical duty to register with a GP outside your own family. If you are unwell, it's important to get an objective assessment and not rely on your own assessment of your health or 'corridor consultations' with colleagues.
  • If you know or suspect your judgment or performance could be affected by your health, you must consult a suitably-qualified colleague (such as your GP, occupational health doctor or psychiatrist) and make any changes to your practice they advise.
  • Don't be tempted to self-prescribe to alleviate symptoms such as exhaustion or anxiety. Self-prescribing could leave you vulnerable to a GMC complaint. Instead, seek objective medical advice.
  • Your medical defence organisation can also support you. If you are referred to the GMC with health concerns, you should let your defence organisation know at the earliest opportunity; they can provide advice on how to respond to the concerns and may also be able to suggest additional sources of support. If you are off sick for more than a month, the MDU can also put your membership on hold, meaning you will not have to pay a subscription for the period you are not able to work.

This guidance was correct at publication on 30/01/2017. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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