You are not alone and we hope that this page will allow you to discover and seek the support that is available to you.
Remember to put on your own oxygen mask first – how can we care for patients if we don’t first care for ourselves?
You may also be interested in our Tea and Empathy section which directs you to sources of support from other doctors.
The BMA runs three services – the BMA Counselling service, the Doctor Advisor Service and The Doctor support service:
BMA Counselling offers 24-hour telephone help and structured counselling sessions. You can remain anonymous and you do not have to be a BMA member to access support. Covers alcohol, substance abuse and debt, as well as issues such as depression, stress, bullying and GMC issues. You can call them on 0300 123 1245.
The Doctor Advisor service runs alongside BMA Counselling, giving doctors and medical students in distress or difficulty the choice of speaking in confidence to another doctor. If you wish to use the service call 0330 123 1245 and ask to speak to a Doctor Advisor – you will be given the name of a doctor to contact and details of their availability. This is not an emergency service and if you find yourself in such a situation, please get appropriate help from either your own GP or usual medical advisor. Doctor Advisors do not provide diagnoses or treatment, although inevitably any interaction will have a therapeutic aspect.
Doctor Support Service: Doctors who face GMC investigations or license withdrawal have access to this confidential support service from the BMA. The GMC commissioned the BMA to provide the Doctor Support Service, which offers emotional help from fellow doctors and functions independently of the GMC. You can call them on 020 7383 6707 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or, alternatively, send them an email.
BMA Law: an independent law firm established by the British Medical Association, offering expert, cost-effective legal advice. Advice about work, such as partnership issues and personal issues, such as divorce. Unlike other law firms, they operate on a not-for-profit basis – reinvesting any surpluses back into services for doctors. You can call them on 0300 123 2014 or send an email.
NHS Practitioner Health
NHS Practitioner Health is a confidential free self-referral service for ALL doctors and dentists of any grade and any speciality in England. They can help with issues relating to a mental health concern, including stress or depression, or an addiction problem, in particular where these might affect work. Access the service by emailing email@example.com or by calling 0300 0303 300. The service is available 8am-8pm Monday-Friday and 8am-2pm Saturday.
Please note the service is not for emergency or crisis issues. These should be directed to mainstream NHS.
Who does NHS Practitioner Health see?
Practice meltdown: Typically an older GP presenting with anxiety and/or depression. This doctor is typically an older partner who has been at their (usually high performing) practice for many years. In many cases, one or more older partners have recently retired, one might be on maternity leave and another on stress-related sick leave, leaving the presenting doctor as one of the only permanent doctors left to do the work. The shortage and high cost of locum cover compounds the problem of over-work and the remaining doctor tries his or her best but cannot do the work of seven doctors. They rapidly become burnt out, depressed or turn to unhealthy coping strategies’ such as excess alcohol intake. You may also want to look at our section on addiction.
Too much too soon: This GP is typically recently qualified and working as a peripatetic doctor, often across multiple sites. The workload in general practice is so intense that without the support of a regular team and close colleagues, the doctor rapidly becomes isolated and overwhelmed, presenting with anxiety, panic disorder and depression.
The straw that breaks the camel’s back: While not wanting to over generalise, there are a number of GPs who present to PHP with mental illness who have been tipped over the edge by a complaint at work or following a Care Quality Commission inspection (even if the inspection resulted in a positive outcome).
From sad to ‘bad’: This individual, in the context of altered cognitions due to depression or anxiety, crosses a threshold of behaviour. For example, self prescribes anxiolytics or analgesics, or transgresses a boundary with a patient.
Doc Health: this is a BMA and RMBF-approved confidential psychotherapeutic consultation service for all doctors. It gives doctors an opportunity to explore difficulties, both professional and personal. This pilot service is delivered by consultant medical psychotherapists. Although located in London, the service is open to all doctors in the UK. For doctors living a considerable distance from London they are able to offer, after the initial face-to-face consultation, further consultations by Skype. You can call them on 07383 6533 (confidential direct line) or send them an email.
The Doctors’ Support Network (DSN) is a fully confidential, friendly peer support group for doctors and medical students with mental health concerns including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, psychoses and eating disorders. Invaluable support and help to feel that you are not alone. As well as looking on the website, you can also fill out a contact form
Feeling overwhelmed? The Royal College of Psychiatrists has a useful resource which includes a safety plan which can be downloaded.
Doctors Support Group: a free service with doctors attending from all across the UK whose primary aim is to enable those facing bewildering and confusing situations to cope and eventually emerge with the minimum of professional and/or personal damage. Any doctor where a complaint has been made to the GMC can ask for support from the Doctor Support Service, which offers emotional help from fellow doctors and functions independently of the GMC. Support is available from when a complaint is made until the outcome of the case. You can call the service on 0203 553 1570.
GP Guardian: An initiative set up by Primary Care People, a leading recruiter of medical professionals in the UK. The project has been launched as a not-for-profit organisation with the primary focus of supporting “distressed” GPs, including those with current or ongoing GMC sanctions and those who cannot get indemnified through one of the MDOs. Primary Care People is aiming to arrange indemnity cover, as well as providing the ongoing training and support required in order to aid a return to practice and retain work once there. You can also get in touch by email.
British International Doctors’ Association: serves to maintain welfare, information and advisory services for ethnic minority doctors and dentists working in the UK.
GLADD: UK organisation that represents LGBT doctors.
Please register to view all of our informative resources within the GP Phoenix Programme.