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Government plans ‘minimum standard’ for GP mental health training



Exclusive The Government is working with the RCGP to introduce mandatory mental health minimum standard training for all new GPs.

The news, revealed in the second annual report on the Coalition Government’s suicide prevention programme, comes one year after the RCGP said additional mental health training should form part of plans to extend GP training to four, rather than three years.

At the time, the college said this could include GPs training alongside psychiatrists to increase understanding of illnesses.

In the report, the Government said it has set up a taskforce to identify and recommend updates to the GP training programme amid research showing that primary care patients who committed suicide were often frequent attenders.

The Government’s report said: ‘Suicide among primary care patients is linked to frequent GP attendance, increasing attendance, and also non-attendance, the latter being associated with young and middle-aged men.’

It added: ‘NHS England has established a task and finish group with the Royal College of GPs mental health strategy group, whose goal is to identify and recommend mandatory mental health minimum standard training for all of primary care.’

The news, which follows a recommendation by the Government’s chief medical offier last year, was trailed by health minister Norman Lamb at a conference on psychological therapies last week.

As part of a speech and questions session, Mr Lamb said he he believed all GPs needed core training in mental health, and that while some GPs ‘totally get it’ others ‘come out with rubbish’.

The chief medical officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, said in her annual report on public mental health in September that all GP trainees should have a period of specific mental health training as part of their core training.

Professor Clare Gerada, medical director of the NHS Practitioner Health Programme, the former chair of RCGP and a mental health campaigner, has called for years for GP training to be extended to make time for more prepation on dealing with mental illness.

She told Pulse: ‘Doctors haven’t yet taken up the four-year training programme because proper resources have not been found and that is doing a disservice to patients. Most doctors do not study psychiatry but around 40% of everything we do is around mental health.’

The Government’s suicide prevention reported coincided with an Office of National Statistics Bulletin, also published yesterday (19 February), which revealed an increase in the number of suicides recorded in the UK.

A total of 6,233 suicides of people aged 15 and over were registered in the UK in 2013, according to the ONS. The male suicide rate, which was the highest since 2001, was more than three times higher than the female rate, with 19 male deaths per 100,000 compared to 5.1 female deaths.