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medicalSeptember 9 2015

Doctors have welcomed the announcement of a £5 million initiative to improve the health of people working in the NHS.

One of three ‘pillars’ supporting the initiative is “a new nationally-specified occupational health service for GPs suffering from burnout and stress, in partnership with the Royal College of GPs and BMA General Practitioners Committee.”

Dr Maureen Baker, RCGP Chair, said: “Better access for GPs to occupational health services is a positive step forward – one that the College has called for - and one that we will be pleased to work with NHS England and others to develop as a priority. It truly is a case of healthier doctors providing safer patient care and being better for patients.”

Dr Baker was responding to NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens’ speech last week setting out how NHS organisations will be supported to help their staff stay well.

Mr Stevens said: “When it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly the NHS needs to put its own house in order ... at a time when the pressures on GPs have never been greater, we need to extend the local practitioner health programmes that have been shown to help GPs stay healthy and get back to work when sick.”

Other commitments include:

  • providing the NHS health check at work for NHS staff aged 40 or over
  • providing specific capacity for staff to access physiotherapy and mental health talking therapies, as well as smoking cessation and weight management services
  • establishing and promoting a local physical activity ‘offer’ to staff
  • fully implementing Public Health England’s Workplace Wellbeing Charter assessment and accreditation process.

Dr Baker said: “GPs are working harder than ever to meet increasing patient demand with limited resources and this unrelenting workload pressure undoubtedly puts our physical and mental health at risk.

“Fatigue, stress, and eventually burnout, among family doctors are increasing, to the detriment of their own health, and this could have a devastating impact on the care that our patients receive.

“Our recent paper outlining the very real threat that GP fatigue can have on our patients’ safety called for measures to be put in place to minimise this risk, and to safeguard the wellbeing of hardworking family doctors across the country.”

She was joined in her support for the initiative by Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chair. “The BMA’s GP committee has been lobbying for some time for the roll out of a comprehensive occupational health system that supports GPs in their increasingly stressful working environment,” he said.

Earlier this year, a BMA survey of more than 15, 000 GPs “found that nine out of ten GPs felt their heavy workload was negatively impacting on the care they provide to patients and a third were considering retiring in the next five years.

“In this climate, we need GPs to have access to properly resourced services that support them in their professional duties,” he said. “This announcement is a welcome step in the right direction.

“We need to ensure that the specification of the service is comprehensive and meets the needs of GPs working in a highly pressured and challenging environment. We must also look at how we can further improve the scheme in the future to incorporate other NHS staff.”

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, commented: “We believe that whilst it is important to offer individuals within the workforce more help, we must also acknowledge the role that organisations play in either improving or worsening mental health amongst staff.

“We hope that NHS England will lead in looking at the organisational factors that must be playing a part in the increase in sickness absence.”

Links:

NHS England announcement - health improvement                                                                                                                         

NHS England announcement - investment          

RCGP response               

BMA response

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