‘Significant concerns’ have been raised about the impact of Covid-19 on health practitioners’ mental health

The Practitioner Health Matters Programme (PHMP), which provides confidential treatment services for health professionals with mental health or addiction issues, dealt with 77 new cases in 2019, a 3 per cent increase on the previous year.

In its fourth annual report, the PHMP reported that non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs), consultants and GPs made up 57 (or 74 per cent) of new referrals to the programme, which is open to pharmacists, doctors and dentists.

Anxiety was the most common issue (34 per cent) followed by burnout/stress (14 per cent) and depression (13 per cent). Dr Íde Delargy, Medical Director for the PHMP, said the numbers of health practitioners presenting to the programme highlighted the pressures many health professionals are under and the need for a confidential service. She also said that the PHMP expected more presentations due to the increased mental health burden of Covid-19.

Strain

“Last year saw the highest number of practitioners presenting to the Programme, and we expect presentations to rise due to Covid-19 because health practitioners have never had to work under this kind of strain before. Everyone is working flat-out to get through this pandemic, and it is only when the dust settles that people will properly be able to process what they have been through. It is crucial that doctors, dentists and pharmacists access help if they are feeling overwhelmed.”

Dr Delargy added: “We have significant concerns about the impact of the virus on practitioners’ mental health, including anxiety, stress and depression.”

Despite the increase in overall numbers presenting to the programme in 2019, there was a significant fall in the number of dentists availing of the service — from 11 to six. However, the number of pharmacists presenting increased from four to six. NCHDs represented the biggest cohort of presentations to the Programme, at 27.

Discrete advice

Mr Hugh Kane, Chairperson of the PHMP, said: “We recognise the continuous need to raise awareness of the service so that all practitioners, their families and concerned colleagues will know of the existence of the programme and how to contact us for help.”

An independent, charitable organisation, the PHMP has the support of the representative and training bodies for the medical, dental and pharmacy professions, as well as the three professional regulatory bodies.

For full details of the Programme, go to http://www.practitionerhealth.ie.