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GPs should give longer consultations to mental health patients, says RCGP

GPs should have more time for consultations with patients with mental health problems under new proposals put forward by the RCGP in collaboration with the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

The two colleges have said that more must be done to improve the physical health of patients with mental health problems, and have laid out their plans for achieving parity of esteem with physical health.

Amongst the proposals being put forward are calls for improving continuity of care so patients can see the same GPs if they wish, and better coordination of care between GPs, psychiatrists and other health professionals.

The colleges have made joint ‘pledges’ to share examples of good mental health care and will focus on supporting people with serious mental health issues in key areas like smoking cessation and emphasising the need for regular physical health screening.

They have also pledged to review shared care the training and prescribing for psychotropic medicines in conjunction with the College for Mental Health Pharmacy and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

NHS England has recently urged GPs to use new tools to evaluate physical health in patients with mental health issues, after a recent survey showed that half of GPs hadn’t had any mental health training in the past 12 months.

And Pulse recently revealed how cuts to child mental health services were heaping pressure on GPs.

The colleges’ statement says: ‘People with serious mental health problems die on average 15-20 years earlier than the rest of the population, with over 33,000 dying prematurely every year.

‘Reversing this situation will require a bold new approach – one which breaks down the boundaries between physical and mental health services in the community and offers patients with serious mental illness a package of care that is planned around their needs.’

It also stresses that it is ‘vital’ that funding for general practice and community mental health services is rebalanced to support the integration of mental and physical health services.