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HCSA statement on closure of NHS Practitioner Health to hospital staff in England

HCSA - the hospital doctors' union has issued a statement following the concerning news that NHS Practitioner Health, the mental health and addiction service for healthcare professionals, has agreed with NHS England to immediately stop new registrations for hospital staff.

UPDATE: Following outcry across the medical profession and beyond, NHS England has announced that Practitioner Health will be extended by twelve months for both new and existing patients. While this is welcome news, it should not have taken outrage across all staff groups to get to this point. It is now vital that mental health and addiction support services for hospital staff are properly funded and safeguarded. Read HCSA's original statement below.

HCSA statement

Hospital doctors have rightly expressed outrage at news that they and their colleagues will no longer have access to this vital service. For many, the Practitioner Health Programme has been a literal lifeline. HCSA shares this outrage.

This is a disgraceful decision at a time when mental health among NHS staff is in crisis. Staff are the NHS's most important asset, yet understaffing and constant pressure continue to add to the long-term impact of burnout and the other damaging effects of the Covid pandemic.

Poor mental health among medical staff can be measured in the growing number of suicides and continued high levels of sickness. Axing support services will only make this worse. Make no mistake that this decision is a matter of life and death.

There seems no doubt that this short-termist decision is driven by the desire to save a few million pounds – a drop in the ocean compared to NHS budgets that will have a disproportionate impact on the wellbeing of hospital doctors.

Dismantling a well-used and well-regarded framework of mental health support, both in the form of cuts to dedicated mental health and wellbeing hubs and now the vital PHP lifeline for hospital staff, is a callous decision which sends the signal that NHS decision-makers simply do not value us.

If the root cause is funding, then it seems guaranteed that any promised replacement following an NHS ‘review’ will be inadequate. For junior doctors who rotate around the country the prospect of trying to access mental health support via primary services is even more disastrous.

HCSA has already joined others to lobby for a reverse of planned cuts to vital the vital NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs. We shall now be working with allies to push back against this latest blow.

These misguided funding cuts are a plain reflection of the lip-service approach to wellbeing which HCSA has long fought against. It’s not enough to say you care. It’s actual support, when it’s needed, that shows you care.

These cuts must be reversed.

Concerned members should contact HCSA at advice@hcsa.com.

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