Health and finance as a general practice trainee

HEALTH AND FINANCE AS A GENERAL PRACTICE TRAINEE

With recent changes in the general practice trainee contract, an increase in the cost of professional exams and more opportunities to work less than full-time (LTFT), trainees can find themselves in financial difficulties that may impact on their health and wellbeing. This article aims to assist trainees by signposting them to services available for themselves or colleagues.

The 2019 General Medical Council (GMC) survey initial findings demonstrate that over a third of GP trainees do not know who to speak to in the workplace about their health and wellbeing concerns. Compared with the general population and other professional groups, doctors have always had higher rates of suicide, particularly in female doctors. While rates of untreated or undertreated depression, bipolar disorder or substance misuse are similar to the general population, specific risk factors, such as GMC involvement, complaints and a lack of support structure around doctors, are significant.

The GMC has published guidance for doctors entitled ‘Manage your health’. This document explores when health concerns require referral to the GMC, to ensure that fitness to practice is not affected and enabling doctors to practice safely. The GMC website is easy to navigate if trainees need to refer themselves or another doctor that they are concerned about. The GMC has also published a booklet called ‘Your health matters’, with practical tips and sources of support for doctors.

Wellbeing

The British Medical Association (BMA) has a Wellbeing Support Service that is a free confidential resource for medical students and doctors for issues including stress, bullying, debt, depression and relationship issues. The service offers free peer support with an emotional focus and a telephone counselling service. There is also a separate service for doctors who are undergoing a GMC investigation, called the Doctor Support Service. Finally, there is also BMA law that offers a family-focused service. This is tailored for doctors who are experiencing the breakdown of a relationship and may need some legal advice on the best way forward. Certain services are available at a fixed price cost to try and reduce the burden of legal fees.

The NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP) is a free and confidential NHS service for doctors with issues relating to a mental health concern or addiction problem, in particular where these might affect their work. The NHS PHP programme also hosts the trainee doctors and dentist support service. Once eligible, trainees are offered interventions, such as drop in peer support groups, and access to events, such as an exam stress workshop. There is also information for trainees starting a new role such as Dr. Toolbox – a local collaborative knowledge resource aiding in safe induction for healthcare professionals.

The RCGP currently offers a number of courses on a variety of wellbeing topics, such as wellbeing walks, art and resilience, clay modelling and parent and baby events. Local Medical Committees (LMCs) arrange events for GPs and GP trainees, including topics such as stress, burnout and wellbeing. LMCs are the professional organisation representing general practitioners at a local level throughout the country.

Finally, there are resources such as ‘Hope for Medics’, providing support and advice for doctors suffering from disability and long-term illness. The Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists (GLADD) is the only association in the UK that unites and represents LGBT doctors.

Finance

There are a number of charities that support doctors and their families in need of financial assistance. These have been brought together on a single website entitled ‘Help me, I’m a doctor’. There is an online questionnaire that assesses the individuals’ eligibility and helps them to access the right charitable grant or loan. The BMA also has a charities trust fund made up of two charities, which help doctors, medical students and their dependents. The Cameron Fund is currently the only charity that solely supports general practitioners and their families. The Citizens Advice Bureau is a network of independent charities that provide free advice on a variety of areas, including debt and money.

ORCID iD

Dr Hana Patel https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1056-9271

References and further information

  British Medical Association (2019) Wellbeing support services. Available at: www.bma.org.uk/advice/work-life-support/your-wellbeing/counselling-and-peer-support (accessed 3 September 2019).
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  General Medical Council. Manage your health. Available at: www.gmc-uk.org/concerns/information-for-doctors-under-investigation/support-for-doctors/managing-your-health (accessed 3 September 2019).
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  General Medical Council (2014) Your health matters. Available at: www.gmc-uk.org/-/media/documents/dc7210—your-health-matters-1215_pdf-56661104.pdf (accessed 3 September 2019).
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  General Medical Council. National training surveys 2019: Initial findings report. Available at: www.gmc-uk.org/-/media/national-training-surveys-initial-findings-report-20190705_2.pdf (accessed 3 September 2019).
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  NHS Employers (2015) Doctors in flexible training. Available at: www.nhsemployers.org/∼/media/Employers/Documents/Pay%20and%20reward/doctorstraining_flexible_principles_cd_080405.pdf (accessed 9 September 2019).
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  RCGP (2019) Wellbeing help. Available at: www.rcgp.org.uk/training-exams/practice/gp-wellbeing/wellbeing-help.aspx (accessed 6 July 2019).
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Conclusion: Any final tips? There are many organisations and charities that assist doctors and trainees during their training period. It is not possible to list every resource, although several have been highlighted. The NHS PHP programme and BMA list specific trainee resources. Health Education England, GP Training Programme Directors and your GP trainer may be aware of local resources.
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