NHS England has unveiled plans for a £19.5-million NHS GP Health Service to offer greater support to general practitioners and trainee GPs experiencing mental health issues such as stress, depression, addition and burnout.

The free and confidential service, which forms part of the government's commitment to securing a healthy and resilient workforce in primary care, will be accessible via self-referral, with treatment services available in 13 different locations across England from January next year.

The service is the world's first nationally-funded health service of its kind for general practice, and was created in close collaboration with partners such as the BMA's General Practitioner Committee, Health Education England (HEE), the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGPs), and the General Medical Council (GMC), to respond to doctors' priority issues.

In tandem, NHS England also announced a revamp of the Induction and Refresher scheme with the aim of accelerating the time it takes for GPs to return to practice.

A working group, including HEE, the BMA and the RCGP, was set up earlier this year to review the scheme and deliver a package of improvements.

Among the plans, the monthly bursary for doctors on the scheme will be increased from £2,300 to £3,500, while assessment fees will be removed for first-time applicants (worth up to £1,000).

It is hoped that the measures will help general practitioners better cope with the increasing demand on services.

"We are responding directly to the concerns of the profession and implementing immediate, practical ways of helping GPs and those returning to a profession that remains one of the most rewarding careers in medicine," noted Rosamond Roughton, NHS England's Director of Commissioning.

Last month the RCGP warned that a shortage of family doctors could lead to the closure of some 600 practices by 2020.