A GP has warned his doctor-patients could be the victims of a ‘postcode lottery’ following the withdrawal of occupational health services funding.
Cleveland retired GP Leslie Dobson says time is running out to save the occupational health service he manages.
It provides 280 consultations a year to GPs, other doctors and their staff on a shoestring budget and has been running for 13 years.
However, the service could close next year when a short-term funding fix comes to an end.
The BMA has expressed fears that already patchy occupational health services for NHS staff are deteriorating further, especially in general practice where the onus is on practices, as independent contractors, to pay for occupational health services at a time when funding is already overstretched.
The association wrote to NHS England last week, urging it to work with the BMA to find a way to provide a comprehensive occupational health service to all NHS staff.
Dr Dobson’s funding was withdrawn as a result of the abolition of primary care trusts in April 2013.
He said: ‘We had seven patients that were undergoing psychiatric treatments at that particular time and our funding was cut off so we had no way of paying [for this].’
One local clinical commissioning group agreed to continue funding treatment for four of the health professionals. The other three had to seek help via their GP.
The local medical committee has agreed to fund the service, which costs £36,000 a year, until April 2015 but Dr Dobson is concerned about the future.
He said services were being funded in other areas and added: ‘What we have is a postcode-lottery system operating. That is frustrating.’
GPC education, training and workforce subcommittee chair Krishna Kasaraneni (pictured right) said: ‘From a clinician’s perspective, we are being asked to care for our patients, by providing care plans to ensure the highest level of care.
'But when it comes to our own staff it doesn’t seem to matter. It is double standards.’
NHS England conducted an audit of occupational health services across the country but the BMA GPs committee is concerned this will lead to the commissioning of services for doctors who have already reached burnout and have performance problems.
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