Practitioner Health Matters Programme continues to expand

Aimed at HCPs with substance use or mental health problems

Deborah Condon

June 8, 2022

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  • Over 100 healthcare professionals newly presented to the Practitioner Health Matters Programme (PHMP) in 2021 for substance abuse or mental health difficulties.

    According to the PHMP Annual Report 2021, a total of 106 healthcare professionals presented to the service for the first time compared to 78 in 2020. Of these, 88 were doctors, 11 were pharmacists, four were dentists and three were students.

    The programme aims to offer discrete and confidential care to doctors, dentists and pharmacists who are suffering with substance abuse or mental health issues. PHMP is fully independent and separate from the regulatory bodies and employers.

    The report shows that among the new presentations to PHMP in 2021, three-quarters were aged between 26 and 49 and just over half were female.

    Among the 88 doctors who newly presented last year, 34 were NCHDs, 28 were GPs or GP trainees and 25 were consultants.

    The PHMP service began in 2015 and since then, it has supported 454 patients who have availed of almost 2,000 consultations, excluding therapy engagements. Of these, 358 have been doctors.

    The largest cohort of doctors who have sought help since 2015 have been NCHDs (160), followed by GPs and GP trainees (104).

    According to PHMP chairman, Hugh Kane, the programme has continued to expand since 2015, “with a steady increase in the numbers of practitioners availing of the service”.

    “Our experience confirms the need for a discrete, designated, confidential programme for practitioners who are facing health difficulties. However we recognise the continuous need to raise awareness of the service so that all practitioners, their families and concerned colleagues will know how to seek help in a time of crisis,” he noted.

    Dr Íde Delargy, medical director of the programme, emphasised that health pratitioners “are no different than the general public when they are faced with a mental health or substance use problem”.

    “There is a sense of shame and stigma in having to admit you have a problem but in addition, practitioners with such problems can often find it difficult to access confidential assistance. It is not easy to have to access mental health support or treatment if you have to do this in a place where your own patients may be attending or a colleague may be providing the treatment.

    “That creates a significant barrier for practitioners to seek help and many continue to self-manage and occasionally self-medicate their symptoms,” she explained.

    As a result, one of the priorities of PHMP is to ensure that all doctors, dentists and pharmacists are aware of the service and how to access it.

    “The confidential nature of the service we provide, as well as the independence of the service, may provide reassurances to practitioners seeking help,” Dr Delargy added.

    For more information on PHMP, click here.

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