New service offers addiction support to doctors

A new service aimed at supporting doctors, dentists and pharmacists with addiction or mental health issues, helped 47 practitioners in its first year of operation.

The Practitioner Health Matters Programme (PHMP) is an independent charitable organisation, which is supported by the representative and training bodies for the medical, dental and pharmacy professions.

It has just launched its first annual report, which provides detail of its first year in operation. According to the report, 47 practitioners were helped during this period, 86% of whom were doctors.

Thirty presented with a single problem, while 17 had more than one problem.

The most common standalone problem seen by the PHMP was substance misuse, followed by anxiety and depression.

However, where practitioners had a combination of problems, depression was the most common presentation, followed by anxiety.

While half of those who attended overall were women, females made up the majority in both the youngest age group (24-29) and the oldest age group (60-69). For example, in the youngest age group, there were eight women compared to just three men.

Almost half of the practitioners had referred themselves to the service, with the remainder being made by a colleague or consultant psychiatrist.

The report noted that over half of the practitioners who sought help continued working in their jobs and did not need to take time off. Six took some time off but have since returned to work or are due back in the near future.

Seven are not currently working. One has since retired and the others are deemed unfit for practice and are under ongoing review.

According to the programme's clinical lead, Dr Íde Delargy, health professionals are very slow to come forward to declare that they may have mental health or substance misuse problems due to reputational and confidentiality issues.

She noted that many present when they are already in crisis because often, they have tried to self-manage and self-medicate their problem.

"After our first year in operation, the PHMP has offered almost 50 practitioners access to a high standard of care in a non-judgmental atmosphere and with complete confidentiality assured. We want to get the message out there that health professionals in difficulty can come to us to have their health needs met," she commented.

She emphasised that early intervention ‘is key'.

"While taking that first step can be extremely challenging for the person involved or their friend or family, it can also be lifesaving. If practitioners come forward early and get the help they need, the statistics show their chances of getting back to work are very good.

"Practitioners who access a service from a designated programme like this do extremely well and about 80% recover and return to working well," she said.

Like the general public, an estimated one in four practitioners may have mental health issues at some point in their lives. Meanwhile, substance misuse problems affect 10-15% of the general population and it is thought that practitioners are at the upper end of this scale.

According to PHMP chairperson, Hugh Kane, an estimated 2,000 practitioners may require help on an annual basis.

"One of our main aims for 2017 will be to engage in an awareness raising campaign of this service among health professionals. The other is to establish a sustainable funding model for the programme.

"From the start we didn't want the lack of funding to be a barrier to the service and we don't believe it has. However as demand for the service grows we will require additional funding and resources and we will be looking to all the relevant bodies to support us in our endeavours to develop the service further in the year ahead," he said.

For more information on the programme, click here


[Posted: Thu 06/04/2017]

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