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Almost half of GP consultations 'now include a mental health issue'

Forty per cent of all GP consultations now see patients raising a mental health problem, a survey has revealed.

More than 1,000 GPs took part in the study, which also found that two in three GPs had seen an increase in the number of patients needing help with their mental health over the past 12 months.

The results have prompted health leaders from the BMA, the RCGP and mental health charity Mind to pen an open letter to Health Education England renewing calls for GP training to be extended from three to four years.

This, they say, would allow more time for trainees to access a wider range of mental health placement options to equip them with more knowledge and confidence in this area.

The survey results obtained by Mind add weight to a growing body of evidence that suggests mental health is becoming an increasingly large part of a GP’s workload. Pulse reported last year that there had been an ‘85% increase’ in patients with mental health conditions in the past five years.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: ‘GPs want to offer the best possible care to their patients and are working hard to do so, despite the challenges created by a decade of underfunding. At the same time, the number of patients needing help with mental health problems is increasing.

‘We not only need greater investment in community-based training to give GPs more opportunity to develop their skills but also a significant increase in mental health therapists directly linked to practices. This would reduce the unacceptable delays many patients currently face getting access to the care they need.’

Earlier this month NHS England announced it had recruited nearly 600 mental health workers and 700 clinical pharmacists to help ease the pressure on GPs.

It follows a pledge by NHS England in April 2016 to fully fund 3,000 mental health therapists to work in general practice by 2021, as part of the General Practice Forward View.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘GPs everywhere are noticing a big difference in the number of patients seeking help for their mental health problems.

‘This may be because people are becoming more open about raising concerns about their mental health issues but, whatever the reason, we need to ensure that our GPs are as prepared as they possibly can be to deliver care to their patients.’

She added that she was ‘very encouraged’ that Mind was supporting the RCGP’s bid to extend GP training, which they have been calling for since 2012.

‘Today’s GPs are expert generalists and exceedingly competent, but the GP caseload has increased exponentially in both quantity and complexity in recent years. Patients with mental health issues deserve parity of esteem with those with physical health issues, and it is important that our GPs of the future are supported with a training programme that reflects the diversity and complexity of modern day general practice.'

HEE said it intends to investigate options around GP training in the future, as stated in its Draft Workforce strategy, and has promoted more access to formal psychiatry training in the Foundation Programme.

A spokesperson said: 'HEE is supportive of all doctors having greater awareness skills in identifying and managing mental health issues.'

Readers' comments (13)

  • We should also do a placement as a social worker as there seems to be a large rise in that type of work.

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  • Maybe instead of cutting and destroying local services they should be funded appropriately.Which would help enormously.

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  • AlanAlmond

    “The results have prompted health leaders from the BMA, the RCGP and mental health charity Mind to pen an open letter to Health Education England renewing calls for GP training to be extended from three to four years.“??????

    This isn’t a GP training problem. What makes this a GP training problem? WTF has this got anything to do with GP training? If 40-50% of all consultations are mental health related any half wit would realise after 6 months in the job we’d have seen more people with mental health issues than the average psychiatrist does in a year. Psychiatry is already part of GP training, if you don’t do it you’ll soon have more than enough experience. For the love of god, I need to go see my GP I’m that wound up.

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  • The medicalisation of normal life gallops onwards; despite what the RCGP tell you, unhappiness is not a disease,shit-life syndrome is not a disease.

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  • We don't need any more "expletive" training we need more than a few minutes to deal with their problem, proper resources to refer to that don't try to bounce every referral they get and a focus on making peoples lives better through education, decent jobs, better diet, more exercise, more social cohesion and less stress in their lives. We are the experts at seeing acute anxiety and depression, not MIND or secondary care who have a completely different workload!

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  • It's not just patient, it's even CCG members - you send them a query and they send the response to somebody else:)))Bonkers:)With patients, you do expect them to have problems - but with white collared 100k Managers, you suspect learning disabilities or congenital arrogance.

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  • Indeed, having a shite life devoid of positive opportunities compounded by poor housing is not ‘ mental helf’ but an austerity issue. Over medicalisation of socital ills

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  • Whilst I agree that this is a societal problem that needs looking into and addressing at this level (poverty/ exam stress/ increased pace of life etc) and it would help if mental health services were not cut and cut and cut I do not agree with Mybad. Just because you see a lot of patients with mental health problems does not mean that you develop a skill set to deal with them. Mental health issue are bread and butter of GP and thus I believe should be a mandatory part of training. 5 week placement at medical school is not enough.

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  • Vinci Ho

    The truth is the mind and the body interact, as I so often said to my patients . The philosophical questions are :
    (1) Is there a meaning behind this ‘pattern’ of so many patients looking for ‘remedies’ in this current , complex society (and the world)?
    (2) If we deliberately ask , the number of mental cases will be a lot more than this figure reported , what is the ‘real picture’?
    (3) For technocrats , academics and policy makers , do you realise the care GPs provide is always about tackling a physical-mental-social (overlapping each other) model ? Hence , the resources we need are far more demanding than that you might have thought .

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  • it is possible to find mental health needs in everybody in a GP surgery including staff if you try hard enough. Experience shows however that much of this is reactive and transient and not worth throwing resource at even if it did exist. GPs know this and practice accordingly.

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