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GPs fear for young patients’ mental health due to waiting times

Nearly all GPs fear that some young patients will come to harm because they are waiting too long for mental health treatment, a survey has found.

The poll of 1,000 GPs across the UK was commissioned by youth mental health charity stem4 and carried out by MedeConnect Healthcare Insight in November.

It found that 99% of GPs fear that young patients will come to harm while on the waiting list for mental health services.

It also saw 90% of GPs say that mental health services for children and young people are 'inadequate'.

Meanwhile:

  • 86% of GPs have seen a rise in the number of patients aged 11-18 suffering with anxiety;
  • 88% say it’s impossible or very difficult to access treatment for anxiety;
  • 81% had seen an increase in young patients with depression;
  • 68% are seeing more under-18s who self harm.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said their fears were well placed.

She said: ‘GPs are often the first port of call for patients suffering with anxiety, and other mental health conditions – yet we often struggle to get our patients access to more specialist services in the community that could be of real benefit for them.’

‘The college has been calling for better access to specialist mental health services for children and young people in the community for some time. We desperately need more, and more varied, mental health services, close to home where they can be of most benefit for our patients – and GPs need to have better and quicker access to these services for our patients.’

She added that the standard 10-minute GP appointment was ‘simply inadequate’ to deal with the different factors that might be causing a patient’s anxiety.

‘Unfortunately, offering longer appointments means offering fewer, and patients are already waiting too long to secure a GP appointment,' she said. 

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