Confidential clinic to provide support services for GPs

Support London clinic launched to boost practitioners' health.

GPs in London will have the chance to discuss their physical or mental health problems at a confidential clinic launched this week by the DoH.

The Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) will offer a range of assessment and support services for doctors, dentists and their families from its base at Vauxhall's Riverside Medical Centre.

The free service is led by Dr Clare Gerada, who founded the RCGP substance misuse unit. She is supported by an addiction nurse, a cognitive behavioural psychologist and an occupational health physician.

Dr Gerada said that a specialist service was necessary, because the stigma doctors attach to illness had led some to turn to alcohol or self-medication instead of seeking help.

'We feel guilty about getting ill, and feel we should be able to sort our own problems out,' she said. 'But doctors need to realise that they are not alone, and that we are not immune from being sick or mentally unwell.' She added that confidentiality at the service would be 'absolutely watertight'.

England's CMO Sir Liam Donaldson said that better health services for clinicians were vital. By offering them 'the help they need... we can ensure they remain able to offer safe, high quality care', he said.

PHP is the brainchild of the London Specialised Commissioning Group and the National Patient Safety Agency.

The DoH has initially funded it for two years, but Dr Gerada hopes it will continue.

'I want GPs to develop expertise in managing sickness among themselves,' she said. 'And I want the health service to get better at treating them, instead of telling them to just pull themselves together.'

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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