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Doctors across England will soon be able to access mental health support following the expansion of a local scheme, NHS England has announced.
Speaking at The International Practitioner Health Summit 2018 in London on 5 October, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said the NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) will expand to support an extra 110,000 doctors across England.
The announcement ties in with the programme’s 10th anniversary.
It is not clear yet how much will be allocated to the programme, as NHS England said the ‘new service will be procured over the next six to nine months’.
At present, NHS trusts or CCGs are responsible to provide mental health support to doctors.
However, provision is not universal. The NHS PHP – for which Dr Clare Gerada was awarded a contract in 2008 – caters primarily for practitioners based in London, although the organisation also provides some support to doctors based outside the capital.
NHS PHP medical director Dr Clare Gerada said: ‘I’m delighted Simon Stevens has announced extra funding to make this service available nationally, so doctors outside of London can access the support they need.’
The NHS is currently funding an NHS GP Health Service, first launched in 2017 to support GPs and trainees affected by mental health issues.
Since its inception, the programme helped more than 1,500 GPs, three quarters of whom were are able to return to work after receiving support.
Long-term focus on mental health
More than 400 doctors died by suicide between 2011 and 2015, according to Office for National Statistics data, and last month Dr Gerada called for the NHS PHP to be expanded and help more doctors.
The announcement of the programme’s expansion comes as the NHS is soon due to publish its long-term plan, which will prioritise both patients and staff’s mental health.
Mr Stevens said: ‘The NHS is significantly improving mental health treatment for patients but sometimes doctors need our support too.
‘This will mean the NHS will now have a more comprehensive national mental health support offer to doctors than any other country in the world.’