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Lack of mental health services putting pressure on GPs, survey shows

A lack of early mental health support services for young people is putting more pressure on GPs, a new survey has shown. 

Over three-quarters of GPs (77%) surveyed said community support for child mental health problems was not good enough. 

The survey of 1,008 GPs from mental health charity YoungMinds also showed nearly half of GPs (47%) said they acted ‘above their level of competency’ when supporting young patients’ mental health problems.

Additionally, 76% of survey participants did not feel confident that their referrals to CAMHS would result in treatment.

It comes as another report by mental health charity Mind revealed the number of cancelled appointments by CAMHS has increased by a quarter since 2017-18.

According to data obtained from NHS Digital, 175,094 appointments in CAMHS were cancelled between August 2018 and July 2019 – an increase of 34,767 cancellations from the previous year.

The YoungMinds survey also found that 90% of GPs said they had seen a rise in the last three years of young people seeking mental health help.

RCGP clinical fellow Dr Faraz Mughal said: ‘GPs are now facing more young people who are seeking support for mental health but unfortunately the support and resources in primary care and wider communities are not readily available.

‘Early intervention in youth mental health is critical and a system-wide strategic approach by all health system stakeholders is urgently needed to provide more support and services in primary care and communities where young people, parents and families and friends would like it.’

YoungMinds chief executive Emma Thomas said: ‘As these worrying results show, GPs are on the front line when it comes to mental health, but too often they don’t believe that there is good enough early support in their community.

‘That leaves them grappling with the difficult choice of trying to help young people themselves, or referring them to mental health services, even when those services are overstretched.

‘This means many young people either receive support from GPs who have the best of intentions but may not feel equipped to provide the right help, or can face long waiting times for specialist services, which may then turn them away because of high thresholds for treatment.’

Labour has recently pledged £845m for improving facilities and workforce in child mental health services.


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