Support and Counselling

LMC Pastoral Care

One of the most important roles of the LMC is to advise and support local GPs, irrespective of the problem they face. This can range from advice about an unusual dilemma to pastoral care through a difficult time for whatever reason, personal or work-related. Because we understand the importance of this role, we have a suitably qualified and robust pastoral care team.

If you believe that either you or a colleague might need help or support – whatever the problem – please contact the office immediately on 01438 880010.

NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP)

East and North Herts CCG, Herts Valleys CCG and Luton CCG have commissioned a specialist, fully confidential service for all GPs working in these areas.  GPs can self-refer to the NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) by calling PHP on 0203 049 4505 or e-mailing england.phpadmin@nhs.net.  This service is aimed at GPs who are concerned about their mental health or addiction problems. You will be invited for an initial face to face assessment at Riverside Medical Centre in London.  This can last up to two hours.

Employee Assistance Helpline 

Employee Assistance Helpline – 0800 328 1437           www.employeeassistance.org.uk/ (access code ddeh071eap)

Confidential support, practical information, legal advice, telephone and face-to-face counselling

We are an independent counselling and advice service, which is paid for by your employer. It is available for you and any family members who are over 16, who live at your address.

You can talk to us anytime, completely confidentially, about whatever is on your mind. You may want to talk to someone because you are struggling, feel worries, frustrated or distressed or you may need some practical advice from our experts.

See other national support organisations.

Ill Doctors

Doctors are notoriously bad at seeking help for medical problems, but illness in a GP may jeopardise his or her ability to care for patients. In the health section of the GMC’s document, Good Medical Practice, it is very clear that all doctors should be registered with a GP, outside of their own family, and that they should not treat themselves.

Please contact the office immediately, on 01438 880010, if you, as a GP, believe that you might be ill and can’t, for whatever reason, go to your own GP. Likewise, if you believe that a GP colleague is unwell and not seeking help, please contact the office, on 01438 880010, to seek further advice from our Pastoral Care team Lead.  Your call will be strictly confidential and referred immediately.

Further, experience has shown that doctors who run into problems with performance issues or partnership disputes are often ill. This may be physical illness or mental health problems, including alcohol or substance misuse. Therefore, it is commonplace for us or the Area Team or CCGs to persuade GPs to undertake a medical assessment as part of an investigation into performance concerns.

Referring Ill GPs for Medical Assessment

Under the Part 6, paragraph 27, Roles of Local Medical Committees, of the regulations, it is an LMC role to arrange a ‘medical examination of a medical practitioner’ (with his or her agreement) where there is concern that illness may be impairing his or her performance or jeopardising patient care.  Having first discussed the problem with the ill GP, the Pastoral Care Lead arranges an appropriate medical assessment (usually this is initially with a consultant in Occupational Health Medicine). As well as outlining the problem or illness faced by the doctor, in his referral he makes it very clear that any confidential information given to the assessing doctor remains confidential and is not passed to either the LMC or the NHS England Area Team. In a referral there are two questions asked of the assessing doctor:

  1. Is the illness affecting the doctor’s ability to an extent that patients are being put at risk?
  2. Is the stressful environment of General Practice adversely affecting the doctor’s health? If so, are there measures that can be put into place to alleviate this?

The Pastoral Care Lead always sends a copy of his referral to the doctor being referred.

The regulations are very clear, if the assessment shows that a doctor’s health is putting patients at risk, then the Medical Director of the Area Team (currently Dr Sarah Whiteman) must be informed.

Following an assessment, a GP may need further help to resolve the problem. Obviously, the first ‘port of call’ should be the GP’s own GP.  We are very well aware how difficult doctors find it to approach their own GP, especially if the problem is a stress or mental health problem.  If for some reason you can’t face calling your own GP or you can’t arrange an appointment, then help can be sought through the LMC so ring our office on 01438 880010 to discuss the issues further; we have a number of ways we can support doctors in seeking the help they need.

GPs as your patient

Consulting with a GP colleague presenting as a patient, can be more complex and difficult than one might expect.  Whilst you must work under all your professional codes, particularly with respect to patient confidentiality, you also have a duty of care to the patients of your GP patient: in other words, if you believe that the ill GP is putting his or her patients at risk by continuing to work, then you must take action. In the first place, we would recommend that you discuss the situation with the GP himself or herself and try to persuade him or her to stop working. Failing this you have three options:

  1. You can discuss the situation you face, in complete confidence, with Dr Peter Graves at the LMC.
  2. Alternatively, you could contact the LMC Chair for your area (the office can make contact on your behalf),
  3. Otherwise you should discuss the ill GP with the NHS England Area Team Medical Director, Dr Sarah Whiteman. She can be reached on 01707 369598.

As we understand how complex dealing with colleagues as patients can be, we are happy to offer help, advice and support – please contact the office on 01438 880010.

GPs facing Performance Procedures

We would recommend that all GPs facing NHS England, GMC, NCAS, litigation or other performance procedures contact the LMC for advice and support. Whatever the circumstances, such procedures are stressful and need to be addressed swiftly and appropriately; we can advise and support you through the processes. We fully understand the performance procedures written by NHS England on how to deal with GPs whose performance gives cause for concern. We are here to ensure that the procedures are fair and transparent.

There are two parts to these performance procedures; a) the investigation, carried out by the Performance Screening Group (PSG) and b) the decision about how to address the concerns revealed by the investigation, undertaken by the Performers List Decision Panel (PLDP) (although there might be times when all that is needed is minor remedial action that the PSG may suggest before the case goes to the PLDP). The team investigating the concerns is independent of the ‘Decision Making Group’ (DMG). Both teams must be supported by a GP nominated by the LMC. The LMC is usually consulted during an investigation to ensure evidence is properly compiled, substantiated and then presented to the GP for comment. At the PLDP meeting, the role of the LMC is two-fold i) to support the GP at the hearing and ii) to ensure that the GP gets a fair hearing.

Other National Support Organisations

BMA

For help, counselling and personal support from a trained telephone counsellor or peer support from a doctor-adviser. Available 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.

Tel: 08459 200169

Charities offering support to GPs:

The Dain Fund helps with the educational costs of doctors’ children in certain situations

The Cameron Fund supports general practitioners and their dependants in times of financial need, whether through ill-health, disability, death or loss of employment

Royal Medical Benevolent Fund Helping doctors and their dependants in need

doctors.net.uk The UK’s largest professional network of doctors – for doctors, by doctors: Forum, email, library, education, medical news, jobs

Support 4 Doctors Information and advice on: work & career, health & wellbeing, money & finance, family & home

Claire Wand Organisation The Clare Wand Organisation is a charitable fund that makes grants to fund the further education of medical practitioners, predominantly engaged in general practice, and for the provision of scholarships (including travelling scholarships).

Support and Counselling Pages

On our “Support and Counselling” pages, found in the index below, you will see headings for a number of topics. These are not comprehensive but do cover most of the topics about which we are frequently asked.

Last reviewed on 21st December 2015 (HB).