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Support in times of need

MPS Medical Adviser Dr Alan Doris provides an update on the MPS counselling service for members

Since 2005, MPS has partnered with the Medical Assurance Society (MAS) to administer and provide funding for a psychological support service for members of either organisation. Establishing this scheme was in recognition of the high rates of mental health problems and addictions in health service providers, and frequent poor use by clinicians of mainstream services for these problems.

As there was increasing evidence suggesting a link between poor mental health in clinicians and an increased risk of adverse clinical incidents or complaints, it was appropriate for organisations such as MPS and MAS to intervene. To ensure the best quality, health services need health providers who are themselves in good health.

Over the last two years almost 200 doctors, clinical psychologists, physiotherapists or medical students have made use of the service, with a trend indicating an increasing demand.

While members using the service are from a wide range of clinical disciplines, a disproportionate number of those who have used the service are GPs. In the aftermath of the earthquakes in Christchurch the scheme was extended to include health professionals, or associated staff, who were not members of MPS or MAS.

Members who call the MPS switchboard (0800 22 55 677) are put through to a member of administration staff who provides information about the support service and how to access it. Only the minimum amount of information necessary for administrative purposes is asked for, and the member does not have to give any reason for wanting to access the service, nor have any current medicolegal concern.

The member does not have to give any reason for wanting to access the service, nor have any current medicolegal concern

The caller is provided with contact details of participating members of the College of Clinical Psychologists in their area, or a neighbouring area, and provided with a reference number. The member then contacts the psychologist they wish to see and makes arrangements for an appointment.

Members of the College of Clinical Psychologists have been the sole providers on the scheme for the last two years to ensure an appropriate service is provided. The psychologist providing the service will invoice MPS for sessions used by the member, but does not provide any other information.

The aim of the psychological input is to provide immediate support by assisting in clarifying what the problems are, identifying the most appropriate interventions and to provide or help organise these. Up to six sessions with a clinical psychologist are funded through the scheme.

The purpose of the scheme is not to attempt to provide treatment for mental illness or chronic mental health problems, but to establish a good understanding of the problems and assist in creating a foundation for any treatment or other intervention to occur.

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