Sickly Health Professional Survey

Tuesday 2nd March 2010

A year ago a programme was set up called the NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) which was aimed at the need to understand and reach out to those doctors, nurses and dentists who were suffering in silence with their own health problems. However, the results provide a worrying outlook to the mental and physical health of these practitioners, more significantly in dentists.

The programme works by allowing practitioners to gain free private advice about a number of health problems following concerns that many practitioners were not reaching out for help in fear they would be disgraced within their profession. Currently, the scheme is only available in London as it was established by the National Clinical Assessment Service which has based the programme here. Frankly, the results are worrying with almost 200 practitioners who went forward to the programme being offered assessments. Of these practitioners 62% had some form of mental health concern, 36% had some form of addiction and 2% a physical medical problem. However, the scheme was very proactive with its treatments for these practitioners and of those who had an illicit drug problem, 88% were now sober. Equally, nearly 50% of those who had not been at work when the programme was started were now back in their workplace. Dr Clare Gerada, the medical director of the programme explains that on the whole dentists appeared much sicklier than other practitioners. She relates this to the fact that they often work in very tiny groups and are literally their own boss. Many feel unable to talk to the general practitioner about any health issues and some don’t even know who their GP is. Shockingly, she describes many of the dentists as having severe addictions to alcohol or chronic depression.

The outreach work that has already been completed in London and its evident successfulness has stimulated the request to have the programme extended to Newcastle and Avon. However, the programme also worrying reveals that people who we are putting our trust in with our health could in fact be more sickly than ourselves. It also shows the pressurised stigma that practitioners are succumbing too as they feel unable to reach out without being ridiculed. Thus it is evident that a scheme like this is very much necessary for both practitioners and the general public’s wellbeing.

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