• By Sam Cook
  • In
  • Posted Tuesday August 11, 2015

Mental ill health... It’s not just patients who need support

Mental ill health can cover a range of conditions including stress, depression, schizophrenia, some addictions and eating disorders many of which (but not all) meet the legal definition of a disability.

Employers are obliged to put in place reasonable adjustments and prevent discrimination for people with disabilities under the Equality Act 2010 but also to prevent employees from coming to harm or working in unhealthy environments under health and safety legislation and their duty of care as an employer.

It is not just for legal reasons that employers should be thinking about the mental well being of their employees, productivity and quality of work and retention can all benefit from investing in employee’s well-being.

From research completed by Health Assured, 78 percent of those surveyed stated that they would be more likely to stay with an organisation that cared for their health and well-being.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists confirm that on the flip side, work is beneficial for your mental health. Work is linked to having a sense of identity and purpose and as a result happiness therefore supporting people within work can be very beneficial.

What can we do about it?


Stress is increasingly the leading reason for absence in many organisations and it is clear that this is the case in Primary Care. There are many tools that can be used to identify stress causes and explore what can be done as a Practice.

First Practice Management have a stress tool that members can use to manage the problem within the practice.

Return to Work interviews

The importance of return to work interviews is often overlooked. As well as a key tool to reduce absence levels and prevent legal claims, return to work interviews are ideal opportunities to hold discussions about employee’s general health and explore whether there are any issues.

Often just listening, addressing any work issues or exploring what support groups are available for the many issues that may arise such as depression can help give individuals the motivation to do something about it.

Appraisals are another opportunity to explore health issues.

Mental Ill Health conditions

 Where an employee has made you aware that they have a condition or learning disability, it is important that the organisation supports the employee.

Access to Work is an organisation that supports disabilities in the work place, often recognised for supporting employers to fund adjustments for physical conditions, Access to Work also have specialists in hidden impairments to support with areas such as dyslexia, autism and other less visible disabilities. 

Employee Assistance Programmes

In the US, Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) have, for a long time, been successfully used to support employees’ health and form a key part of the way they operate.

Many UK organisations have embraced these services where advice on pensions, legal rights (normally non employment law related) and managing debt can be combined with counselling services for stress, depression, alcoholism and other treatments.

Although this is likely to be a huge expense for small practices, it could be something that CCGs or federations could choose to explore region-wide. 

Support Already Available

BMA members already have access to an EAP-style service where they can get access to counselling which can be extended to their family members. Promoting the use of this may be useful when tackling stress amongst clinical staff.

The RCN provide a similar service for nursing staff and the NHS Practitioner Health Programme.

NHS Practitioner Health Programme provide free and confidential support for mental, physical and even addiction concerns.

The Samaritans can support individuals and Mind have produced a helpful guide for employers on how to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem.

The Depression Alliance can support people with depression including finding people self help groups and the Scottish Government provides support for stress for Scottish residents.  

First Practice Management is currently partnering with the Disability Confident campaign by the Department of Work and Pensions to promote the value of employing people with disabilities in the workplace. We can also support employers with concerns and questions in this area.

For specific enquiries surrounding mental illness, FPM Members can contact advice@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk.

Alternatively the policies and protocols library has a stress tool that members can use to manage stress within the practice.

© First Practice Management, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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