How will the NHS GP Health Service work?

The NHS GP Health Service will provide support and treatment to GPs struggling with their mental health, addiction and burnout following its launch on Monday 30 January. GPonline looks at how the service will work.

The GP Health Service will open its doors from the end of this month to offer support to GPs and GP trainees in England.

GPs can establish contact with the service – which is free through the NHS – confidentially through a telephone line, email, a website or app.

Following initial contact, GPs will undergo a brief assessment before seeing a doctor for a more in-depth evaluation, which will precede access to therapy, self-help tools or prescribing, as required.

Read more: Dr Clare Gerada interview

Treatment services are available across all 13 NHS England local area teams to allow for a locally-sensitive service.

NHS England has appointed the Hurley Clinic Partnership as provider of the service, which has had experience running a similar scheme for doctors in London called the Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) over the last 10 years.

Speaking to GPonline, Professor Clare Gerada, partner at the Hurley Group, said: ‘They will be able to access therapy anywhere of their choice based on their own needs – whether it’s where they work, where they live or 150 miles away because they don’t want to see anyone nearby.’

Video consultations through services such as Skype or FaceTime are also on offer.

Self-referral

The service is self-referral only, with phone lines open from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 8am-lunch on weekends.

‘It’s always been self-referral because it can’t be part of the performance management system,’ said Professor Gerada.

‘Our anxiety has always been that people are told to contact us. This is not a performance management system. This is where you as a doctor feel you would like to access some confidential help for your needs – it’s not an appraiser saying you must go.’

GPs treated in the system will mainly be seen by GPs and psychiatrists, or potentially a senior nurse, Professor Gerada said. It will offer three major forms of treatment – individual, behavioural and psychotherapy groups.

‘We’re like a very good GP service. We will have somebody that will sit and listen to you – a GP or psychiatrist – address your immediate needs, access to therapy, and maybe prescribing. With your consent, we hope to plug you back into your GP to look after you and help you return to work. For serious addiction we've got access to inpatient beds.’

The service was launched after securing £19.5m over the next five years as part of the General Practice Forward View.

How the service can help

The GP Health Service can help GPs with:

  • Common and more complex mental health conditions
  • Mental health conditions relating to a physical health issue
  • Substance misuse including support for community detoxification
  • Rehabilitation and support to return to work after a period of mental ill-health

Some examples of the support available through this service are:

  • General psychiatric support and treatment
  • Support for addiction related health problems
  • Psychological therapies, e.g. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness
  • Brief psychotherapy
  • Group therapy including reflective practice groups
  • Local groups addressing specific areas (for example, suspended doctors, addicted doctors or specific issues affecting mental health in a particular area)

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