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Sick Doctor Scheme reinvented and expanded to include ‘practitioners’

Renamed the Practitioner Health Matters Programme (PHMP), the initiative will provide a more formal structure on “policies, procedures and our way of working,” Dr Ide Delargy, previously Chairperson of the SDS and now taking on a similar role with the PHMP, told the Medical Independent (MI).

“Internationally, these disciplines are often included together in health programmes because of the ease of access to medications. Doctors, dentists and pharmacists tend to have similar levels of mental health and/or addiction issues — in fact, some studies suggest that the rates might even be higher than in the general population but the substances these professionals use if they get into difficulty is what differentiates them from the general population,” she commented.

Dr Delargy added: “This is a new departure for us but this type of system has been shown to be effective elsewhere and if people know there is a discrete, confidential service there that can help them, they are definitely more likely to come forward.” She stressed that there are no formal lines of report in place with any regulator and referral to the Medical Council, Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland or Dental Council would be a “very last resort” and would only apply to those not engaging in the programme and putting patients at risk.

Although the PHMP will not be formally launched until September, Dr Delargy told MI: “We have a website up and running, www.practitionerhealth.ie, and there is an email address there that practitioners can contact, as well as FAQs and other resources. The service is so new, we don’t have anybody to man a phone line yet but the email is entirely confidential and comes directly to me, so anybody who wants to get in touch confidentially can do so straight away.”

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