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New registrations stopped: NHSE reviews mental health support for secondary care staff

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The halt comes amidst shortage of staff, burnout and high stress as over 111,000 jobs remain unfilled across the NHS.

In a recent development, NHS England (NHSE) has announced a termination of new registrations for secondary care staff accessing the NHS Practitioner Health service, effective from Monday, April 15.

The decision follows after discussions between NHSE and NHS Practitioner Health regarding service arrangements, which took effect on April 1 and has triggered concerns among healthcare professionals and elicited responses from key stakeholders.

Emphasizing a commitment to ensuring sustainable mental health support for all staff groups, NHSE plans to conduct a thorough review in collaboration with the NHS Practitioner Health service.

Additionally, NHSE has assured existing patients registered with the service that they will continue to receive uninterrupted support to conclude their treatment.

While “a wider review” is underway to provide the mental health support needed to the NHS staff, Dr. Navina Evans, NHSE’s chief workforce officer, stated:

“Following discussions with Practitioner Health on their current service for secondary care doctors, dentists, and senior NHS staff, we have jointly agreed to extend the service by 12 months for both existing and new patients”

Expressing deep concern, Dr. Sarah Clarke, President of the Royal College of Physicians, penned a letter to NHSE’s chief executive and national medical director, urging a reconsideration of the decision to halt new registrations.

Citing mental health as “vital” now more than ever as “42 per cent staff in 2023 felt unwell due to work related stress”, she highlighted the challenges faced by healthcare professionals including “staff shortages (over 110 FTE vacancies) and waiting lists at 7.5 million”, accentuating the need for continued support.

Furthermore, the decision to halt new referrals during the review process has raised apprehensions about the perceived lack of support for NHS staff.

Saffron Cordrey, deputy chief executive at NHS Providers, also voiced deep concern over the withdrawal of funding for mental health support services for NHS hospital staff by NHS Practitioner Health.

Cordrey emphasized the pressing need for national funding to enhance working conditions and support staff wellbeing, particularly amidst over 111,000 unfilled jobs across the NHS.

As stakeholders engage in dialogue to address these concerns, the focus remains on ensuring the wellbeing and support of NHS staff during these challenging times.

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