• Chief people officer Prerana Issar suggests NHS staff should receive priority for mental healthcare
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists president says idea could improve efficiency in the health service

The NHS’ chief people officer has said NHS staff should be prioritised for receiving mental healthcare because of the “stressful” nature of the job.

Prerana Issar, who started as chief people officer for NHS England and Improvement in April, proposed the idea during a Twitter chat earlier this week about how to make the NHS a great place to work.

Ms Issar said: “I’m sure the costs can be included in ongoing operational costs.”

She has since told HSJ she is “passionate about improving the mental health of our hard-working NHS staff, which will benefit patients as well as our workforce”.

“The long-term plan set out how to make the NHS the best place to work and GPs already receive tailored support,” Ms Issar added. “I want to see what more we can do to help those giving their all for patients and their families.”

This is not the first time prioritising access to mental healthcare for NHS staff has been discussed. Earlier this year, Health Education England‘s mental wellbeing report for NHS employees and learners recommended a service that would ensure rapid access referral for NHS staff based upon a prioritisation request from a primary care or occupational health clinician.

However, Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told HSJ it was a “tricky” subject, as “people can be very offended by the idea as it can look unfair”.

Professor Burn said: “In terms of life-threatening treatment, there shouldn’t be any difference. But if somebody has a condition that isn’t life threatening and they work in the NHS and you can see the point of trying to treat them so they can get back to work and look after more patients.”

She stressed it was not about value, but instead about efficiency and “getting people back at work which makes the NHS more efficient”.

“You would want to pilot it first and see what happens. I think it would be sensible. If you could show you got people back to work quicker and overall more patients got seen, it would make sense,” Professor Burn added.

The HSJ Transforming Mental Health Summit, taking place at the Hilton Leeds from 28-29 November, unites 120+ senior figures from across the NHS, local authority and wider mental health service delivery landscape to discuss how to realise the visions of the NHS long-term plan and ensure successful local implementation of national priorities. Held under the Chatham House Rule, attendees will quiz Paul Farmer and other national figures on general policy direction and co-develop solutions to their local challenges with NHS and local government colleagues from across the country. The Summit is free to attend for senior NHS and public sector figures – register your interest here for this free to attend forum on our website: https://mentalhealth.hsj.co.uk/register-2019