Clinic set up to help doctors back to work faces closure

An 'enormously successful' clinic set up to return sick doctors to health and work could close due to a lack of funding.

Dr Gerada: funding is getting critical
Dr Gerada: funding is getting critical

Cash support for the Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) runs out in August, its medical director and RCGP chairman-elect Dr Clare Gerada told an RCGP policy debate last week. PHP is to hold last-ditch talks on funding with NHS London in mid-June.

‘The funding is getting critical. We are probably going to start giving remedial notices of closure as of 1 July,' Dr Gerada said.

‘From 1 August we will stop taking new referrals.'

The service receives five or six referrals a week and has helped several hundred doctors.

An independent evaluation found it was ‘overwhelmingly seen to be successful' and ‘should be used as a learning process to build future programmes'.

It is ironic that as the enormous cost of revalidation comes in, the tiny cost of supporting doctors who struggle is disappearing, Dr Gerada said.

Doctors need to know that if they fail revalidation there is a system that can help them pass.

PHP set up in 2008 with £1.6m a year in DoH funding for a two-year pilot. It is seeking £1.2m a year to continue to help London doctors.

‘If it stops it will be much more difficult to start again,' said RCGP revalidation lead Professor Mike Pringle.

National roll-out would cost £6-8m, Dr Gerada said, and could save the NHS £100m in locum fees and by getting doctors back to work.

‘It's a no-brainer. I would love to see revalidation linked to a national practitioner health programme and a return-to-work programme.'

Sick doctors make up an estimated 0.5 to 1% of the profession.

In Scotland, a peer support and mentoring system is run on goodwill. ‘With revalidation that is no longer acceptable,' said GPC Scotland chairman Dr Dean Marshall.

NHS London said that it is ‘working to ensure that funding for this valuable programme will be secured'.

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