Impact of the Proposed Closure of the NHS Practitioner Mental Health Programme for Doctors and Managers in Secondary Care


mental health
healthcare professionals
international medical graduates
workplace stress

How to Cite

Chakravorty, I., Chakraborty, N., & Dave, A. (2024). Impact of the Proposed Closure of the NHS Practitioner Mental Health Programme for Doctors and Managers in Secondary Care. The Physician, 9(1), 1-6.


To reduce its financial deficit, NHS England decided to cull the funding of the Practitioner Health Programme (PHP), which has been providing confidential mental health services to 110,000 NHS doctors/ senior managers since 2011. This decision was announced when NHS doctors were in a dispute over pay and conditions, AND coincided with increasing prevalence of mental illness, stress and burnout.

This decision raised concerns among doctors' unions, medical royal colleges, and doctors through social media. An open letter asked the Health Secretary to reconsider this decision. Access to primary care doctors was maintained. What appears not to have been considered is that around 50,000 junior doctors, including locally employed doctors and international medical graduates who are in short-term contracts or rotational attachments, are unlikely to meet the waiting time for such ‘secondary care OH services’. In addition, the elephant in the room of a massive challenge of the professional stigma that prevents doctors from accessing mental health support early seems to have been missed.

This editorial briefly explores the causes of a high prevalence of stress and work-related mental illness amongst HCPs, the consequences on their overall health, employing organisations and their patients.


Tyssen R, Vaglum P. Mental Health Problems among Young Doctors: An Updated Review of Prospective Studies. Harvard Review of Psychiatry. 2002;10:154–65.

Bhugra D, Sauerteig S-O, Bland D, et al. A descriptive study of mental health and wellbeing of doctors and medical students in the UK. International Review of Psychiatry. 2019;31:563–8.

Batchelor R, Pitman E, Sharpington A, et al. Student perspectives on mental health support and services in the UK. Journal of Further and Higher Education. 2020;44:483–97.

Alkwai HM. Graduating from Medical School amid a Pandemic: A Study of Graduates’ Mental Health and Concerns. Education Research International. 2021;2021:e8854587.

Elnajjar A, Khan M, Foongsathaporn C, et al. Non-US International Medical Graduates in Psychiatry Training During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Challenges and Novel Solutions. Acad Psychiatry. 2023;47:205–10.

Dong F, Hwang Y, Hodgson NA. Relationships between racial discrimination, social isolation, and mental health among international Asian graduate students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of American College Health. 2024;72:606–13.

Steil A, Tokeshi ABP, Bernardo LS, et al. Medical residents’ mental distress in the COVID-19 pandemic: An urgent need for mental health care. PLOS ONE. 2022;17:e0266228.

Ashouri FP, Rasekhi S. A Review on Medical Students Mental Health Problems and Proposed Solutions. Int Electron J Med. 2015;4:23–31.

Karaffa KM, Hancock TS. Mental Health Experiences and Service Use Among Veterinary Medical Students. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. 2019;46:449–58.

Rüsch N, Angermeyer MC, Corrigan PW. Mental illness stigma: Concepts, consequences, and initiatives to reduce stigma. European Psychiatry. 2005;20:529–39.

Chew-Graham CA, Rogers A, Yassin N. ‘I wouldn’t want it on my CV or their records’: medical students’ experiences of help-seeking for mental health problems. Medical Education. 2003;37:873–80.

How PC, Kho C, Rodríguez R, et al. Immigration as a Social Determinant of Mental Health: Implications for Training and Education in Psychiatry. Acad Psychiatry. 2021;45:93–9.

Khoodoruth MAS, Al-Nuaimi SK, Al-Salihy Z, et al. Factors associated with mental health outcomes among medical residents exposed to COVID-19. BJPsych Open. 2021;7:e52.

Sattar K, Yusoff MSB, Arifin WN, et al. Effective coping strategies utilised by medical students for mental health disorders during undergraduate medical education-a scoping review. BMC Med Educ. 2022;22:121.

Thompson G, McBride RB, Hosford CC, et al. Resilience Among Medical Students: The Role of Coping Style and Social Support. Teaching and Learning in Medicine. 2016;28:174–82.

Bhugra D, Smith AJ, Ventriglio A, et al. World Psychiatric Association-Asian Journal of Psychiatry Commission on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of International Medical Graduates. Asian Journal of Psychiatry. 2024;93:103943.

de Moissac D, Graham JM, Prada K, et al. Mental Health Status and Help-Seeking Strategies of International Students in Canada. Canadian Journal of Higher Education. 2020;50:52–71.

McConville J, McAleer R, Hahne A. Mindfulness Training for Health Profession Students—The Effect of Mindfulness Training on Psychological Well-Being, Learning and Clinical Performance of Health Professional Students: A Systematic Review of Randomized and Non-randomized Controlled Trials. EXPLORE. 2017;13:26–45.

Yogeswaran V, El Morr C. Effectiveness of online mindfulness interventions on medical students’ mental health: a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2021;21:2293.

Kehoe A, McLachlan J, Metcalf J, et al. Supporting international medical graduates’ transition to their host‐country: realist synthesis. Med Educ. 2016;50:1015–32.

Giacco D, Matanov A, Priebe S. Providing mental healthcare to immigrants: current challenges and new strategies. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2014;27:282.

Petrie K, Crawford J, Baker STE, et al. Interventions to reduce symptoms of common mental disorders and suicidal ideation in physicians: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2019;6:225–34.

Slavin SJ, Chibnall JT. Finding the Why, Changing the How: Improving the Mental Health of Medical Students, Residents, and Physicians. Academic Medicine. 2016;91:1194.

Carrieri D, Pearson M, Mattick K, et al. Interventions to minimise doctors’ mental ill-health and its impacts on the workforce and patient care: the Care Under Pressure realist review. Health Services and Delivery Research. 2020;8.

Mental health for doctors LTF and SOM FINAL.pdf. Google Docs. (accessed 15 April 2024)

Brooks SK, Gerada C, Chalder T. The specific needs of doctors with mental health problems: qualitative analysis of doctor-patients’ experiences with the Practitioner Health Programme. Journal of Mental Health. 2017;26:161–6.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2024 Array