Detail about the programme

 

Help is always given to those that need it.

In the field of dentistry, dentists may sometimes experience stress at work – after all, it can be a very fast moving, performance-driven environment.

As such, dentists (just like everyone else) are at risk of developing a substance abuse problem such as an alcohol or smoking addiction. According to a recent well-being report published by the British Dental Association, almost half of general dental practitioners (GDPs) surveyed reported low levels of life satisfaction and 44 per cent reported low levels of happiness.i On top of that, 55 per cent admitted to experiencing high levels of anxiety the day prior to being surveyed, which suggests that the number could be even higher if you take into account those dentists who suffer from sporadic episodes of anxiety and nervousness.

As it stands, the exact number of dentists suffering from an addiction problem and/or mental illness is unknown. What we do know, however, is that high levels of stress at work can have a negative effect on emotional well-being and mental health,ii which is why the profession must continue to place importance on staff welfare. After all, with the right help and support, such a risk could be completely avoided.

Luckily, there is help available for those dentists that need a hand with getting over an addiction. The Dentists’ Health Support Programme, which is managed by the Dentists’ Health Support Trust (DHST) offers dentists in difficulty an opportunity to remedy their problems, get their life back on track and, where possible, back into practice. Part of the struggle can be to admit to having a problem, but with the help of an organisation like DHST, which has an 80 per cent success rate (the highest of any comparable charity in the country), dentists can receive the necessary diagnosis and intervention that they need to get better.

All support, treatment, rehabilitation and assistance with recovery and reintegration is delivered by an expert team comprising of a psychiatric nurse and a recovering alcoholic with many years of sobriety under his belt. Without such a service, dentists would have no-one to turn to – and it is for that reason that the profession must continue to offer its support to charities like DHST. Similar to other organisations within the dental sphere, the work of the Dentists’ Health Support Programme relies entirely on the generosity of the profession for its funding.

The programme provides a number of activities including: responding to enquiries, which may lead to intervention, assessments and treatment pathways followed by ongoing monitoring and support. This support is extended to families and colleagues of the dental professional in difficulty. A vital role is that of case-management where the coordinators take responsibility for liaison between health and other professionals involved in the dental professional’s treatment/support. Another essential component of our role is to educate and raise awareness within the profession regarding the reality of mental illness and addiction issues among members of the profession. All enquiries are logged in a data gatherer from which data can be extracted and examined, allowing us to objectively consider patterns of behaviour and presenting conditions within the dental profession.

 

Dentists’ Health Support Programme (DHSP) is a well run, effective programme which offers dentists a service which addresses urgent needs which are seldom met, in time, by other services

Clinical audit and appraisal of the coordinators continues annually as does mentoring, support and supervision for the coordinators. The DHSP, as managed by the DHST, is a busy responsive service which affords the opportunity for dentists in difficulty to make contact with highly experienced experts in the identification and management of addictive and mental health disorders. The DHSP forms an essential component of the response to the heightened illness risk experienced by dentists. Indirectly, the programme underpins good patient care by supporting dental professionals struggling with ill health and returning them to safe, valued practice in an efficient and effective way.

  Dr. Douglas Fowlie

Consultant Psychiatrist

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