The number of health professionals who accessed a programme aimed at helping those with mental health or addiction issues, increased last year, and is expected to increase even more this year as a result of the pandemic.
The Practitioner Health Matters Programme (PHMP) provides confidential treatment services to doctors, dentists and pharmacists with mental health or addiction problems.
According to its fourth annual report, the PHMP dealt with 77 new cases in 2019 - a 3% increase on the previous year and the highest annual figure so far recorded by the programme.
Some 74% of new referrals in 2019 involved doctors - GPs, non-consultant hospitals doctors (NCHDs) and consultants.
The most common reason for accessing the programme was anxiety (34% of all presentations), followed by stress/burnout (14%) and depression (13%).
"Last year saw the highest number of practitioners presenting to the programme, and we expect presentations to rise due to COVID-19 because health practitioners have never had to work under this kind of strain before.
"Everyone is working flat out to get through this pandemic, and it is only when the dust settles that people will properly be able to process what they have been through. It is crucial that doctors, dentists and pharmacists access help if they are feeling overwhelmed," commented PHMP medical director, Dr Íde Delargy.
She said that the programme has "significant concerns" about the impact the pandemic is having on the mental health of health professionals.
Meanwhile, the report also noted that despite the overall increase in practitioners accessing the programme, there was a big fall in the number of dentists using it, from 11 in 2018 to six in 2019. However, the number of pharmacists increased from four to six.
The biggest group using the programme was NCHDs (27).
"We continue to be assured of the need for a confidential programme for practitioners who are experiencing difficulties and who need to avail of discrete medical advice.
"We recognise the continuous need to raise awareness of the service so that all practitioners, their families and concerned colleagues will know of the existence of the programme and how to contact us for help," commented PHMP chairperson, Hugh Kane.
For more information on the programme, click here.
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