Open Access Open Badges Research article

Which doctors and with what problems contact a specialist service for doctors? A cross sectional investigation

Antony I Garelick1*, Samantha R Gross2, Irene Richardson3, Matthias von der Tann1, Julia Bland4 and Rob Hale1

Author Affiliations

1 MedNet Service for Doctors, Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust, 120 Belsize Lane, London NW3 5BA, UK.

2 National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, DeCrespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF, UK.

3 Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust, 120 Belsize Lane, London NW3 5BA, UK.

4 MedNet Service for Doctors, Maudsley Hospital, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AZ, UK.

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BMC Medicine 2007, 5:26  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-5-26

Published: 28 August 2007



In the United Kingdom, specialist treatment and intervention services for doctors are underdeveloped. The MedNet programme, created in 1997 and funded by the London Deanery, aims to fill this gap by providing a self-referral, face-to-face, psychotherapeutic assessment service for doctors in London and South-East England. MedNet was designed to be a low-threshold service, targeting doctors without formal psychiatric problems. The aim of this study was to delineate the characteristics of doctors utilising the service, to describe their psychological morbidity, and to determine if early intervention is achieved.


A cross-sectional study including all consecutive self-referred doctors (n = 121, 50% male) presenting in 2002–2004 was conducted. Measures included standardised and bespoke questionnaires both self-report and clinician completed. The multi-dimensional evaluation included: demographics, CORE (CORE-OM, CORE-Workplace and CORE-A) an instrument designed to evaluate the psychological difficulties of patients referred to outpatient services, Brief Symptom Inventory to quantify caseness and formal psychiatric illness, and Maslach Burnout Inventory.


The most prevalent presenting problems included depression, anxiety, interpersonal, self-esteem and work-related issues. However, only 9% of the cohort were identified as severely distressed psychiatrically using this measure. In approximately 50% of the sample, problems first presented in the preceding year. About 25% were on sick leave at the time of consultation, while 50% took little or no leave in the prior 12 months. A total of 42% were considered to be at some risk of suicide, with more than 25% considered to have a moderate to severe risk. There were no significant gender differences in type of morbidity, severity or days off sick.


Doctors displayed high levels of distress as reflected in the significant proportion of those who were at some risk of suicide; however, low rates of severe psychiatric illness were detected. These findings suggest that MedNet clients represent both ends of the spectrum of severity, enabling early clinical engagement for a significant proportion of cases that is of importance both in terms of personal health and protecting patient care, and providing a timely intervention for those who are at risk, a group for whom rapid intervention services are in need and an area that requires further investigation in the UK.