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GP training should involve psychiatry placement, BMA says

GP trainees should undertake an attachment in psychiatry to address the problem of neglected physical health in people with mental illnesses, the BMA has said.

The BMA’s ‘Recognising the importance of physical health in mental health and intellectual disability – achieving parity of outcomes’ report, published this week, estimates that 60% of avoidable mortality among people with mental illness is due to physical ill health.

It adds that men with mental health issues have their life expectancy shortened by around 20 years on average and women by around 15 years.

This follows the RCGP’s call for GPs to training alongside psychiatrists to improve the management of mental health conditions in children.

The BMA report claims the problems are compounded by recent cuts to mental health funding, with 1,711 mental health beds closed since April 2011, and therapy limited to just 20 sessions on the NHS.

The report says: ‘General practitioners in training should spend an attachment in psychiatry, liaison psychiatry, or intellectual disability. This is an area for action for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the RCGP.’

It adds: ‘Achieving parity of outcomes between mental health, intellectual disability, and physical health is complicated by gaps in training and workforce planning: these are apparent during medical school, the foundation programme, and speciality training.’

‘A better understanding of mental health and intellectual disability, achieved through training at all stages of a doctor’s medical career, holds the potential to raise doctors’ aspirations for these groups while at the same time improving access to, and the quality of, care for mental health and intellectual disability patients.’

Professor Sheila Hollins, chair of the BMA’s Board of Science, said: ‘It is deeply concerning that mental health in the UK is not universally held in the same regard as patients’ physical health, nor does it receive comparable levels of funding.’

‘There would be an outcry if patients with a physical illness were denied treatment or care due to cuts in funding, yet this is what we are seeing for those patients suffering from mental illness.’

Pulse recently revealed the impact of new NHS guidance which told commissioners to cut non-acute services, like mental health, by 20% more than acute sector services. An investigation found that 77% of CCGs were applying 1.8% cuts to their child and adolescent mental health services, despite GP concerns that services are already overstretched.