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Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2015 Jul;28(4):324-9. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000166.

Service provision to physicians with mental health and addiction problems.

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aIntegral Care Program for Sick Doctors, Galatea Clinic, Galatea Foundation, Col·legi de Metges de Barcelona bDepartment of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine, Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron, CIBERSAM, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain cGP Patient Safety Lead, NHS Somerset CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), Somerset, UK dInstitute for Behavior and Health, Inc., Rockville, Maryland, USA.



Physicians are reluctant to ask for help when they suffer from substance use disorders and/or other mental illnesses (i.e. when they become 'sick doctors'). This can result in greater morbidity/mortality and may lead to significant problems in medical practice. This review aims to describe the nature and development of programs that specifically treat sick doctors [Physician Health Programs (PHPs)].


PHPs were first developed in the United States in the late 1970s. The purpose was to identify and treat physicians with problems resulting from mental health issues, mainly substance use disorders. Since then, other PHPs have been developed in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, trying to reach sick doctors, offering counseling or other preventive interventions when needed. New models to help sick doctors, such as the Spanish PHP, were also developed. Counseling and support services for sick doctors have been implemented elsewhere in Europe (e.g. Norway and Switzerland).


PHPs provide interventions specifically designed for physicians and other medical professionals with substance use and other mental health problems. The balance between guaranteeing safe practice and yet encouraging all physicians to ask for help when in trouble raises questions regarding how these programs should be designed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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