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Costa del Solve your health issues

Stressed teachers are flocking to Spain because the NHS cannot provide treatment fast enough.

A mental health clinic on Spain's Costa del Sol is offering courses dedicated to British teachers after 180 visited it last year complaining of work-related stress.

Growing numbers of teachers are believed to be opting for private therapy in the sun as an alternative to long NHS waiting lists.

Visitors to the Elite Clinic near Marbella enjoy the area's hotels and sunshine as they work through their problems with counsellors on courses involving cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnotherapy.

Martin Shirran, the clinic's co-director, said: "The majority who come are secondary teachers, but we've had heads, deputies and even a teaching assistant.

"Many are off sick with stress before they come to us. Many are suffering from panic attacks, depression, insomnia or other symptoms."

Common complaints include the pressure of curriculum change, Ofsted, paperwork, class sizes and violence in class.

"Some who come to us are at the end of their tether," said Mr Shirran. "They haven't been able to find support back home."

John Taylor, deputy head of a Birmingham primary, sought treatment at the clinic for stress-related irritable bowel syndrome last year.

He said: "I'm not the sort of person who gets visibly stressed, but I took over as acting head for two years and the pressure manifested itself in other ways. I wasn't sure the therapy would work, but it has, and I haven't had problems since.

"Schools with several teachers off with stress should definitely consider sending staff to the clinic because, in the long term, they will save money on supply cover."

But, at pound;300 to pound;400 for a course, heads might have trouble convincing the governors to fund it. Mr Taylor paid for his own treatment.

The stress-busting breaks echo recent trends for people to seek cheap treatment abroad, from cut-price dentistry in Hungary to "plastic surgery holidays" in the Tropics.

Around 70,000 people in Britain are estimated to have sought health treatment abroad last year, although it is uncertain how many went specifically for mental health issues.

The Teacher Support Network, which last year gave online and telephone-based counselling to 3,000 teachers here, said that the "postcode lottery" of NHS care might be behind the trend. Many teachers who visit their GPs for help are told they might have to wait up to a year for treatment.

But Patrick Nash, chief executive of the network, has warned that teachers seeking private treatment anywhere should exercise caution as there are hundreds of private clinics, counsellors and therapists offering their services at home and abroad, and quality varies.

"I would advise them to check that the service provider meets national clinical standards," he said.

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