Stressed GPs are showing symptoms of PTSD, warns former RCGP chair

GPs are under such huge strain that many are showing symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to former RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada.

More than 900 GPs are now using the Practitioner Health Programme (PHP), a free and confidential support service for doctors and dentists in London, Dr Gerada told the Londonwide LMCs annual conference on Wednesday.

Up to 20 new clinicians are approaching the service for treatment each week, up from just three in 2009, she warned.

She told the conference, in north London's Emirates Stadium, that she was regularly seeing doctors with 'symptoms that are indistinguishable from post-traumatic stress disorder'.

GP mental health

'These aren’t people that are seeing trauma in accident and emergency departments, these are people living with trauma in our NHS,' she said.

Dr Gerada, medical director at the PHP, said that her sick doctors service is facing a rapidly changing demographic: 'We are seeing a tsunami of young doctors coming to the service, when I first opened my doors the typical patient was an older male GP who drank too much.'

The PHP was forced to close its doors for six weeks in May last year amid rising demand for psychological support among doctors, and has called for additional funding.

NHS England has pledged that every CCG in the country will be ordered to set up an occupational health service for GPs from 1 April 2016.

GP Forward View

NHS England has since committed to increase the £3.5m project budget by a further £16m, in the GP Forward View released on 21 April. The procurement will start in June 2016 and the service is expected to be available across England from December.

This service is intended to support GPs at risk of burnout by providing universal access to free, confidential local support and treatment for mental health issues.

Dr Gerada added that GPs should stop blaming themselves for problems facing the NHS: 'We’ve got to stop this this triad we all have of self-doubt and thinking we can sort it all out.'

'We have to care for ourselves, and for each other, don’t expect others out there to show us compassion.'

Dr Phil Hammond, also speaking at the LMC conference said: 'It’s deeply ironic and paradoxical that we are harming and possibly killing, the very people looking after us. We need to address that.'

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