Support overseas doctors for first year, says leader of doctors’ mental health service

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  03 Apr 2017


International medical graduates should be supported for a year when they start working in the NHS, one of the doctors providing a national doctors’ mental health service has said.

Clare Gerada, a partner at the group of GP practices that run the NHS GP Health Service and the Practitioner Health Programme, says that doctors from overseas need to be given “a year of care” to help integrate them into the NHS.

“If you think your doctors are suffering, try being a doctor coming from a war torn area, not just unable to speak the language fluently but unable to understand our language,” she said. “We’re working with everybody who cares to listen to change the culture for our international medical graduates and try and get a “year of care” for them—a year when they can be not just forced to sit exams but actually supported.”

The NHS GP Health Service offers psychiatric assessment and treatment, support for addiction related health problems, and individual and group psychotherapy sessions for GPs. The service has been funded by NHS England at a cost of £19.5m over the next five years.[1]

Gerada believes that, despite the pressure on the NHS, there is an increased awareness of the importance of improving doctors’ health and wellbeing. “Wherever you go now there is talk of practitioner health, wellbeing, resilience training,” she said. “All over the country employers are addressing the issue of staff wellbeing. Simon Stevens sees it as a staff priority, so it has become a priority.”

The General Medical Council also now takes a lighter approach to doctors who are under the care of the Practitioner Health Programme, she said. “The GMC has changed. We are working very closely with them to make sure that doctors that pose no risk to their patients but require help have a space to get better,” she said.

Gerada also discussed why there was a particular need for the new NHS GP Health Service, which is provided by the Hurley Clinic Partnership.[1] “GPs are expected to be the saviours of the NHS, which is good really, but we are also the scapegoat,” she said. “This was placing quite a psychological toll on a profession that just wants to care for patients.”

She said that the GP service had seen “extraordinary” numbers of patients since it was launched at the beginning of the year. “I think we have shown that if you provide a service and you make it confidential, safe, and easily accessible, then the patients will come,” Gerada said.

She added, “What we want to focus on next is stopping sickness happening in the first place. We want to set up education, reflective practise, spaces where doctors can think together and suffer together and hopefully not need our service at all. That would be the dream, but I suspect we are way off that.”

References

  1. Iacobucci G. NHS unveils service to help GPs with burnout. 2016. [Link] .

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers

 arimmer@bmj.com

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