Mental health in the NHS is reaching a tipping point

The issue of mental health amongst doctors hit the headlines earlier this week, after one senior figure claimed it is the ‘last taboo in the NHS’.

Speaking about mental health in the NHS on BBC1’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, the Medical Director of the NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP), Dr Clare Gerada also said doctors are at an ‘incredibly high risk‘ mental illness.

Following the programme’s broadcast, SHP spoke to former GP Dr Zain Sikafi, who has now launched an online therapy service Mynurva, about the impact mental health is having on the medical profession and on the public at large.

There’s been a lot of talk in the press this week about mental health amongst doctors and GPs. As a former GP yourself, how big is the issue?

Dr Zain Sikafi (ZS): “It’s a big issue in the general population, as well as in the medical profession. I still do clinics and I am always taken aback by the waiting times that patients have to wait for therapy and the increasing workload GPs are under. When patients are waiting, they are coming back to see their GPs. It might have been a two or three month wait. We’re talking ordinary, working people who were feeling stressed and they are regularly coming back to the GP to touch base. Some services are not even available in some boroughs. For example, relationship therapy services were not available in some of the boroughs I have worked in. So, if couples are having problems at home, they have no one in the NHS to speak to.

“MIND did a survey of a 1,000 GPs and found that two out of five GP appointments were for mental health problems, with two out of three of doctors reporting their proportion of mental health appointments has risen over the last year.

“It’s clear it’s a growing issue in terms of GPs workload, but in terms of doctors themselves, I think mental health is reaching a tipping point. People are afraid of their records being stored. It’s more pertinent for doctors, because they are worried about how they might be judged.

“When I first came up with the idea for Mynurva and tested it out, and we found one of the biggest things our users wanted was for this service to be totally confidential. No matter what your profession, people do not what their employer or their spouse to know. We could not build an app, because no one wanted to download onto their phone. We couldn’t go to corporations, because only 20% of wellbeing programmes are utilised for this reason.”

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