The recent death of Dr Gail Milligan, a GP in Surrey, has again highlighted all the pressures faced each day in general practice. While no one can truly understand what Gail was going through at the time, it appears that the intolerable workload and pressures faced as a GP impacted detrimentally on her mental health. Unfortunately, Gail is not the first person working in general practice who felt they had no other option than to take their own life, and this is unacceptable. Suicide is preventable.
We have a duty to remember Gail and others like her, and a responsibility to prevent the loss of more colleagues in the same way. 10th September 2022 is World Suicide Prevention Day. To this end the BMA is encouraging all GP practices in England on Friday 9th September, to spend some time (perhaps an hour or two), focusing on their own wellbeing and identifying the best ways of supporting each other’s mental health.
Please use this time reflecting on the loss of colleagues, to identify how each practice can support the health and wellbeing of their practice team. As part of this time to reflect we suggest that you think about how you manage your workload. Please see attached discussion points to consider.
In advance of 9th September practices should write to their Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) to explain that you will have reduced service for this time. The GMS contract allows you to deliver services “in the manner determined by the contractor's practice in discussion with the patient”, so if the PPG is happy for this temporary service variation, you are legitimately able to do this. You can use this template letter as a basis for writing to your PPG. You can also use the following suggested answering phone message. The BMA have liaised with NHSE nationally on this and the LMC have contacted all relevant stakeholders at the ICB, as the commissioners of the service, to make them aware that this email is being sent to all practices locally.
The BMA has consistently raised the importance of urgently addressing factors impacting on GP health and wellbeing in meetings with government and the opposition. They have most recently raised concerns with primary care Minister James Morris MP and the Secretary of State, Steve Barclay MP to highlight the need to protect GPs’ health. The BMA will continue to push for action as the new prime minister is announced and parliament returns in September.
The BMA have also for some time highlighted that general practice workload is far beyond capacity, and expectations of commissioners and government are totally unrealistic given the resources available to general practice. They will continue to lobby for both adequate resource and protected and capped workload, and this will be central in upcoming negotiations for a new GMS contract.
A range of wellbeing and support services are available to doctors and staff, and we encourage anybody who is feeling under strain to seek support. Please take a moment to check in on your colleagues’ wellbeing and look out for each other. For further information on support services available please visit our mental health section of our website.