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Calls for GPs to receive better training on suicide prevention

GPs should receive more training in detecting patients at risk of suicide and those suffering with depression, MPs have said.

The House of Commons Health Committee has recommended that the GMC should ensure that all undergraduate medical students should receive similar training in suicide prevention and that the RCGP should include the assessment of depression and suicide risk in the training and examinations of all new GPs.

In a report on its inquiry into progress of the Government’s suicide prevention programme, it called for GPs to have access to readily available training resources and NICE guidelines and said Public Health England should have oversight in ensuring that all GPs involved in assessing such patients are accessing this training.

The findings come after the enquiry heard evidence that clinicians sometimes fail to recognise those patients who may be suicidal.

While it welcomed the fact that 95% of local authorities now have a suicide prevention plan in place, the enquiry expressed concern about the quality of the plans currently in effect and called for greater scrutiny.

It called for strong and coordinated national leadership to ensure that GPs and primary care nurses receive ongoing training in detecting patients at risk of suicide.

The committee also raised concern with the overall progress to date of the Government’s suicide prevention programme.

It said: ‘We welcome the provision of funding for suicide prevention but we are concerned that it will be too little and too late to implement the strategy as effectively as required. We call on the Government to set out how it will make sure that funding is available for the actions outlined in the strategy.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard pointed out that the college has called for GP training to be extended to four years to include more training on mental health.

Responding to the findings that GPs sometimes ‘miss’ the opportunity to make a diagnosis, Professor Stokes Lampard added that ‘given the complex nature of these conditions, it sometimes isn’t possible within the constraints of the standard 10-minute consultation for GPs to make a definitive diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate form of treatment’.

She said:  ‘Mental health is an enduring priority for the college, and ultimately what is necessary is for substantially more investment in general practice and more GPs so we can offer longer consultations to those patients who really need them.

‘It is also vital that we have a greater quantity of mental health services in the community, and for GPs and their teams to have better, easier and quicker access to these, in the best interests of our patients.’