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SOM welcomes reversal of cuts to Practitioner Health

Posted by Ann Caluori | Mon, 15/04/2024 - 10:11



SOM is delighted that cuts to Practitioner Health have been reversed. NHS England (NHSE) yesterday announced that the service would be extended by 12 months while a wider review is carried out. NHS Practitioner Health is a free, confidential service for doctors and dentists across England with mental illness and addiction problems, who are working or looking to return to clinical practice. In a statement, Dr Navina Evans, NHS England’s chief workforce officer, said: “Following discussions with Practitioner Health on their current service for secondary care doctors, dentists and senior NHS staff, we have jointly agreed to extend the service by 12 months for both existing and new patients, while we carry out a wider review to ensure that all NHS staff groups have the mental health support they need.”​


SOM believes that all NHS staff should have timely access to evidence based mental healthcare. SOM acknowledge that the Government has rightly determined that military veterans deserve a dedicated mental health service (called Op Courage in England with similar services in the devolved administrations) because of the sacrifices they have made to protect the nation. SOM believe that NHS staff made similar sacrifices during the COVID pandemic, and indeed they always have, and continue, to provide a vital service for the whole nation in challenging circumstances which pose a real and distinct threat to their mental health. SOM believe that it is thus right that NHS staff should also have access to dedicated mental health services not just because it is morally the right thing to do, but because it is only by having sufficient, mentally health staff, that the NHS will be able to fulfil its commitment to the nation to provide a high standard of care to the UK population.


In SOM’s view it was unhelpful to announce the ending of a specific mental health provision for NHS secondary care staff, without publishing details of the clear pathways for all NHS staff to access similar, or better provision. SOM believe that a dedicated NHS staff mental health service, working alongside dedicated specialist occupational health provision, should be an essential element of the NHS people promise. The causes, and management, of mental health difficulties can often be complex and having a specialised treatment service like Practitioner Health is essential when local occupational health services are undertaking assessments to advise on health status in relation to patient safety.


Investment in occupational health in the NHS must be a part of plans going forward as part of the Growing Occupational Health and Wellbeing Strategy that NHS England agreed in January 2023