I am on a train back from London to Nottingham following a round table event led by NHS England focusing on how to address the problems of mental health and emotional wellbeing of GPs.
I have worked with and for GPs since my RAF days then onto the NHS since 1996 (yep since I was 2!) so almost 20 years now and I can honestly say that the overwhelming majority of them are hard-working, caring, passionate about serving their local populations but almost to a person – stressed!
The demands on the everyday GP are vast and varied and many are not obvious to the average patient. GPs in partnerships run their own small businesses, the surgery, contracted by the NHS to do so and with funding plunging over years, patient demand and expectation rising and a lack of new recruits and acceleration of early retirements the profession is in something of a crisis. It’s a ‘perfect storm’ situation and it does feel more than a little ironic that the very people who are causing quite a bit of the pain are the ones looking to design a service to cope with the effects of it!
The event today covered a lot of areas and talked about what would be in the new service for GPs such as potentially talking therapies, psychiatric services, addiction counselling etc and the role of the Local Medical Committee (LMC) in any implementation of a service was seen as key, indeed I am involved in a GP support service that works across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. There is also discussion outside of the GP care about the wider support team in practices including practice managers and nurses and how they can be supported. I was recently involved in co-designing and delivering a stress management workshop with a local Clinical Commissioning Group for their practice managers and would like to do more of this.
I really enjoy working with GPs, both in a supportive, representative and advisory role in the LMC and also as a coach on a one-to-one basis and I care about their future and that of healthcare for the masses. The NHS is an institution that we should all be grateful for and proud of not dismissing the fact that there are at times cultural issues around incident reporting and massive wastage and inefficiencies. Getting the care that we get as patients in this country without massive bills being sent to us after each contact is a gift to us, we should be grateful but also challenge it when it performs poorly.
I urge you to bear in mind when you next see your GP that they are (normally) doing their best for you and that they are humans too and become patients too at times, of course they are providing a service to us and we have expectations of them. Also, for GPs reading this please hang in there and for goodness sake get help if you are feeling down or stressed – from your local LMC in the first place if you’re note sure where else to go – I know that GPs often find it hard to ask for help but you really should, you deserve that help when you need it.
Anyway, the next steps after today is that a new national service is rolled out, probably in the autumn of 2016 greatly increasing the access to mental health and associated services for GPs.
So, how are you today, doctor?