Prime Minister David Cameron has deflected criticism about the lack of mental health care provision in the NHS onto GPs, who he claimed are not treating people for mental health conditions or referring them for ‘increasingly available’ CBT.
The comments came during yesterday’s PMQs in response to a question about the lack of mental health beds put by newly elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in his new-style approach in which he drew on questions suggested by the public.
Mr Corbyn asked the Prime Minister to respond to ‘Angela, who is a mental health professional’, who said the lack of beds meant ‘people suffering serious mental health crises are either left without adequate care or alternatively admitted to facilities many miles away from their homes, relatives and family support systems’.
In response, Mr Cameron said that ‘we need to more as a country’ tackle mental health problems and that this required not only investment that the Government had already committed, but changes in the health service. He singled out GPs as a key barrier to better care.
The Prime Minister said: ‘The right honorable gentleman rightly talks about mental health beds, and they are important, but frankly so is the service that people get when they visit their GP. Many people going into their GP surgeries have mental health conditions, but they are not treated for those conditions and do not get access to, for instance, the cognitive behavioural therapies that are increasingly being made available.’
He added: ‘So my argument is, yes, put in the resources, change the way the NHS works and change public attitudes to mental health – that is vital – but I say again that we will not be able to do any of those things without the strong economy that we have built over these last five years.’
The comments come after NICE advisers recommended GPs should be given a new target in the QOF for referring people for psychological therapy within three months of a diagnosis of anxiety or depression, to try to increase referrals.
GPs have themselves warned that long waiting times for mental health services are leading to patient harm, while there are concerns that lack of access to psychological therapies has forced them into increased prescribing of antidepressants.
A Nuffield Trust study showed that GP prescribing of antidepressants had risen markedly since the glocal economic crisis hit, while another study provided further evidence that depression rose markedly as a consequence of the financial crash.