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GPs accused of referring ‘too many’ patients to child mental health services



GPs are referring too many patients to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), according to a new report.

Think-tank Localis, whose report was backed by former health minister Norman Lamb, said this was putting unnecessary pressure on an already ‘oversubscribed’ service.

The report suggested that this is because GP training programmes do not include a sufficient focus on mental health, with just 46% of GP trainees training in a mental health setting at all, and the majority in a secondary care setting.

The report said: ‘This means that GPs can lack an understanding of  the best methods to deal with the mental health difficulties of young people.

‘This results in a tendency to refer too many onto specialist CAMHS even when they do not meet the criteria for these services, building inappropriate demand into the system and putting unnecessary further pressure on CAMHS.’

In response, the think-tank urged NHS England to ‘accelerate’ plans to place 3,000 mental health therapists in a general practice setting.

It also said there should be improved mental health training for GPs, echoing calls made previously by the RCGP and backed in part by the last Government.

The report said: ‘Given GPs are the main “connectors” to specialist CAMHS, they need to be provided with the tools to increase their confidence levels in appropriately tackling mental health needs of the young people they see.’

It also suggested that teachers should have ‘mandatory’ mental health training, as in many cases teachers send children to see a GP when they could be referred directly to CAMHS.

It comes as a Pulse investigation, also cited in the think-tank’s report, revealed that almost two-thirds of GP referrals to CAMHS lead to no treatment.

Mr Lamb, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson, said: ‘This is a timely and highly welcome report, at a time when mental health care for children and young people is in a state of crisis in many areas.

‘The simple fact is that most young people experiencing a mental health problem still do not receive the timely support they need. Too often they are left waiting interminably or are denied effective support due to high eligibility thresholds.’