Intended for healthcare professionals


Too embarrassed to seek care

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 15 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5456
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1London

    Doctors are notoriously reluctant to seek medical help, many waiting until breaking point before admitting they have a problem. Zosia Kmietowicz talks to the head of the UK’s only GP led service aimed at sick doctors

    It was Clare Gerada who coined the phrase “doctors are too busy to be sick.” Meeting her a year after setting up a health service for doctors and dentists living or working within the M25 motorway around London she qualifies this with “they are also too embarrassed to be sick.”

    Dr Gerada is a GP at the Riverside Health Centre in Vauxhall, London, from which she also runs the practitioner health programme, a confidential service for doctors and dentists with an addiction or mental or physical health problems that affect their ability to work.

    The service launched in November 2008, eight years after a young psychiatrist, Daksha Emson, killed herself and her 3 month old daughter (BMJ 2003;327:1008, doi:10.1136/bmj.327.7422.1008-d). Dr Emson had had a relapse of bipolar disorder after the birth of her daughter, although her illness had been previously well controlled. The inquiry into the deaths highlighted the inadequacies in the way mental ill health in doctors is managed. A subsequent report from the Department of Health in February 2008, Mental Health and Ill Health in Doctors (, recommended action to better manage mental …

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