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Northern Ireland: Improving mental wellbeing for GDS practitioners

Blog Author Roz McMullan

Blog Date 27/01/2021

​Roz McMullan on the GDS assistance programme, a one-stop-shop for mental health.


In any ordinary year, January is known for being a difficult month. Its sense of gloominess is often said to peak on Blue Monday, which is believed by many to be the most depressing day of the year. Amid another national lockdown and with health services pushed to breaking point, 18 January 2021 may have been the bluest Monday yet.


In these difficult times, high quality, timely support to maintain mental wellbeing is needed more than ever. That’s why, I’m pleased Inspire Workplaces GDS assistance programme is in place for practitioners in Northern Ireland.


Here’s what you need to know about this mental health and wellbeing support service:


What is the GDS assistance programme?

The GDS assistance programme is a one-stop-shop for mental health and wellbeing support, and is available all year round. It is designed to help practitioners prioritise their wellbeing and resilience across all areas of life - both personal and professional.


​“Access to counselling, psychoeducation, the popular ‘iHelpr chatbot’ and more.”

The programme provides a broad range of accessible tools, methods and interventions to support stress management and mental health. These include timely access to counselling, psychoeducation, the popular ‘iHelpr chatbot’, book recommendations and bereavement support and more. All elements of the programme are provided confidentially.


It was established in October 2019 and being delivered by Inspire Workplaces, an award-winning social enterprise promoting positive mental wellbeing and resilience in the workplace.


How do I access it?

“Call 0800 389 5362 for immediate, free, confidential telephone counselling.”

Any registered General Dental Services Practitioner in Northern Ireland may register and make use of the programme. You don’t need to be a BDA member to use it. You can call 0800 389 5362 now for immediate, free, confidential telephone counselling. You can also visit the Inspire Support Hub. For any issues getting started, there is technical support available at hubsupport@inspirewellbeing.org.


For all dentists who are concerned they may have an addiction to alcohol or drugs, contact the NI Doctors and Dentists Group, Dr. John Burton drjburton@btinternet.com on 02879 633 265 or 07710 741 169, where you will find confidential professional help and support.


What support is available for non-GDS dentists?

If you are not a GDS dentist, you cannot access the GDS assistance programme. However, salaried and hospital dentists have access to Inspire through their Trust contracts. And there are a variety of other services that provide useful wellbeing support for dental practitioners of any discipline and dental students in Northern Ireland.


These include the BDA Benevolent Fund, (available to all dentists and students, not just BDA members), the Dentists' Health Support Trust and, for BDA members, BDA Health Assured. See this comprehensive list of the professional and personal support available for everyone on the dental team for more information.


For those feeling overwhelmed, it is important to know you are not alone. Please contact Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 for free 24/7 support in NI or the Samaritans on Freephone 116 123.


Looking ahead

“I'm proud of the progress we've seen in recent years.”


I have long campaigned for access to mental health support for dentists and I’m proud of the progress we’ve seen in recent years. Indeed, it was a central tenet of my time of BDA President. With help from our partners, we will continue to work towards practical solutions to tackling stress and burnout in the profession, with a focus on prevention strategies.


Roz McMullan


Roz McMullan

Chair of Probing Stress in Dentistry in Northern Ireland (NI)