North and South Staffordshire health authorities fund a support service for local GPs undergoing various forms of stress. It was set up 18 months ago by Ruth Chambers, a local GP and professor of health commissioning at Staffordshire University, to offer support to GPs experiencing problems with drinking, drugs, work pressures, relationships and careers.

'It is an alternative resource for people who feel they cannot go to their own GP,' she says. One-to-one help is offered by other GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors. About 10 doctors have been helped, out of a total of 500 local GPs. 'One person broke confidentiality to phone and say he would have been likely to commit suicide without it,' says Professor Chambers.