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NHS Practitioner Health lives on, but needs a long term future

NHS England have finally commuted an eleventh-hour death sentence for NHS Practitioner Health coverage for hospital dentists and doctors.

On Friday 12 April the mental health and addiction support service announced that funding had been cut, with no new registrations for secondary care staff from Monday 15 April onwards.

That’s zero working days notice.

Now, the screeching U-turn. Services are to be extended for 12 months while a review is undertaken into the need of NHS staff groups.

The outrage from this profession has been palpable. Many have joined us in signing a message with our medical colleagues to NHS CEO Amanda Pritchard and Health Secretary Victoria Atkins, urging them to change tack. And we’ve got a result.

We’ve got a stay of execution, but how on earth did we get here? The largest publicly funded mental health staff treatment service on Earth costs just £11m a year to run – a mere 0.007% of NHS England’s budget. Tiny savings would have come at a very human cost.

The programme is well regarded, and for very good reason. Social media has been overflowing with colleagues attesting to the fact NHS Practitioner Health has saved lives.

Pre-COVID we fought for and won extension of support to primary care dentists. NHS England have since claimed that this coverage was never at risk.

We are seeking cast iron assurances this support has a future, in both primary and secondary care.

We are clear that mental health matters. Any health service requires healthcare professionals who are ready, willing and able to do their jobs.