All National Health Service (NHS) doctors and dentists in England now have access to a free, comprehensive mental health service. These clinicians can get confidential advice and support in person or over the phone if they have faced a stressful incident at work or feel they are struggling with their mental health.
The service can be accessed by phone at 0300 0303 300, Monday through Friday from 8 am to 8 pm and Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm; by email at email@example.com; or by texting NHSPH to 85258. The support is staffed by 200 experts who have been trained to understand the specific circumstances of clinical life.
When clinicians email or phone the service, they receive a link to its app, where they can book appointments with a clinician of their choice. After being assessed, clinicians can continue to be seen by their lead physician, who can prescribe medication, support them while they are off from work, and follow up as appropriate. Individual and group therapy also will be available.
Feedback from those who used the pilot program has been positive, the NHS reports, with 88% reporting a positive impact on their well-being and 85% reporting a positive impact on their ability to work or train.
“Our incredible NHS would be nothing without our outstanding, devoted staff. Many of them face incredibly challenging and often distressing situations on a daily basis, and we owe it to staff to provide the mental and physical health support they need to deliver consistently high-quality care for patients,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“There is a lot of work taking place across the country to improve the offer to staff, and dedicated support to all doctors and dentists in the country is a key part of this. I’m determined to provide those who care for us the full backing they deserve and open doors to specialist services to turn to whenever they need help,” said Hancock.
“I am immensely pleased and proud that the work we have done over the last decade has demonstrated the value of a service like NHS Practitioner Health. This means that any doctor or dentist in England can access free, confidential mental health support and treatment and get the help they need,” said Dr. Clare Gerada, medical director of NHS Practitioner Health.
“No doctor or dentist need shy away from seeking help. They can be assured of the same levels of confidentiality we would afford members of the public who access care, and the stigma and barriers to seeking help through mainstream NHS services have been removed,” said Gerada.
The service can be accessed by phone at 0300 0303 300, Monday through Friday from 8 am to 8 pm and Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by texting NHSPH to 85258.
The British Dental Association (BDA) welcomes the program and says that it has long campaigned for such a service for dentists. Last month, the BDA launched a partnership with Health Assured to provide all of its member with a 24-7 comprehensive and confidential counseling service as well.
The BDA’s own research has found high levels of stress and burnout among dentists, with a 17.6% of respondents admitting they had seriously thought about committing suicide. Also, almost half of dentists surveyed by the BDA revealed that stress in their job is exceeding their ability to cope.
“The BDA’s research over the past decade has consistently shown that many dentists experience unacceptably high levels of stress, with little or no formal help from government until now. Our researchers college hard data on the worrying extent of stress and burnout in the profession and the factors that place dentists at risk,” said BDA chair Mick Armstrong.
“We used this evidence to make a compelling case to ministers that they could no longer ignore the mental well-being of dentists, whilst at the same time expecting them to deliver high-quality care to patients,” Armstrong said.
“For too long, practitioners in desperate need of support were either expected to suffer in silence or struggle to access basic services, resulting in too many dentists exiting the profession early or worse,” said Armstrong.
“We’re very pleased that the highly regarded, confidential NHS Practitioner Health Programme has now been extended to all NHS dentists across England, and the stigma and barriers to seeking help through mainstream NHS services have been removed,” said Armstrong.