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GPs report '85% increase' in patients with mental health conditions

GPs are spending more than a day a week treating patients with stress, anxiety or depression, a survey has found.

Royal London, a life insurance, pensions and investment company, surveyed 250 GPs finding that 85% had seen an increase in the number of patients suffering mental health conditions in the past five years.

GPs typically referred 23% of the patients they diagnose to specialist mental health services, the survey suggested.

It further found stigma around mental health conditions remain, with:

  • 45% of patients delaying making an appointment because they are ashamed or fear being stigmatised; and
  • 16% of patients asked GPs to 'camouflage' details of their diagnosis when writing a fit note.

A supporting survey of 2,000 adult patients found that main reasons for people experiencing stress, anxiety or depression were work (34%), loneliness or feelings of isolation (32%), and strains on relations with friends or family (30%).

Jennifer Gilchrist, proposition lead at Royal London said: 'The survey results show that we still need to raise awareness of the number of people who suffer from stress, anxiety or depression and that people need to be encouraged to visit their GP sooner to seek help and support.'

Readers' comments (4)

  • Doctor McDoctor Face

    and thats just the patients who are doctors and nurses.

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  • Anonymous Locum GP

    07 Nov 2017 8:31am

    unfortunately i suspect you are right - i think there are a lot of doctors now with depression - Pulse should do a survey

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  • Is GP as first point of call correct for all of these?
    Should society think about better support at work, in the media (including social media), and within families to reduce incidence of stressors?
    Sadly, one problem is that referral to any secondary care, sometimes including requests for counselling or CBT, can result in patients being put on addictive antipsychotics and other drugs, and then discharged with a comment 'not needing secondary care input', although they are now addicted as well as stressed, and probably out of work as well, with consequent deeper ego damage than before.

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  • Edoardo Cervoni

    According to the ONS: "Average life satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness ratings reach highest levels since 2011". Who should we believe to? My impression is certainly echoing the findings highlighted in this short article.The sample size of the ONS is of sample size of approximately 158,000. Quite small, may I say, particularly when we ignore the distribution, social status, age, response rate, etc. I could not find the number of people claiming benefits due to mental disorders, and specifically depression, for the year 2016-2017. However, we know that mental disorders have become the most common cause of receiving benefits, with the number of claimants rising by 103% from 1995 to 1.1 million in 2014. I am likewise aware that is is more likely that people on benefits and unemployed are suffering from depression.
    As for the GP role, this should be framed within the above context of increasing number of patients being diagnosed with depression, increasing number of antidepressants being prescribed, yet not decreasing number of patients claiming benefits due to a reduced burden of depression on work capability for instance. Hence, we should be questioning if we are really making a difference and/or enough difference.
    We are also aware that double-blind, randomized controlled trials have shown that antidepressants are, on average, only marginally superior to placebos. One might reasonably ask, however, whether there might be a sub-set of patients for whom antidepressants are highly effective. This is certainly possible, but to date no one has been able to reliably predict which subset of patients will respond best.
    Moreover, because average antidepressant efficacy is small and not clinically significant, if there is a sub-set of patients for whom antidepressants are highly effective, there must also be a sub-set of patients for whom antidepressants have no effect, or are even harmful.
    We know for certain that they are not a cure, but - in the best case scenario - a treatment.
    My humble opinion is that we should reflect deeply as a society on the causes of the increasing burden of mental health issues.
    As physician, we should improve our understanding of depression, and how to identify an effective treatments for a given patient, if any.

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