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Consultants to advise GPs on patients who fail mental health referral criteria



GPs are set to receive personalised care plans from consultants for patients who do not meet the mental health referral criteria, as part of a new pilot.

In an email seen by Pulse, NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG told local GPs that Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) is piloting ‘a new approach to the screening of GP referrals’ to mental health services.

The screening programme will see a consultant psychiatrist review all GP referrals and create a ‘management plan’ for patients, ‘which do not meet the current criteria for treatment within secondary mental health services’. 

The email explained that the reviewing consultant will decide on the ‘most suitable clinician to see the patient or will write back to you with a suggested management plan’.

However, BMA GP Committee prescribing lead Dr Andrew Green said:I doubt that there can ever be enough information in a GP letter, however much care is taken, for a psychiatrist to properly assess that patient’s risk, and to form a medical opinion regarding the best management based on information gathered by a third party is unlikely to meet basic standards of clinical safety.’

He added that ‘the clinical risk will rest in the GP’s lap, even if they have attempted to get specialist help’.

Dr Milind Karale, EPUT executive medical director, said: ‘If a referral is not accepted by the service, the consultant is best placed to make appropriate recommendations to the GP regarding the treatment of the patient.

‘We also believe that the GPs are likely to have greater confidence in decisions made by the consultants. The request for such a pilot had come from local GPs.’

EPUT told Pulse that the pilot, which started last month, will run for three months before undergoing a review.

This comes after the Government announced it would be trialling a new four-week waiting time target for children and young people referred for mental health treatment by GPs.

Pulse revealed in 2016 that 60% of GP referrals to child and adolescent mental health services lead to no treatment and a third are not even assessed.