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Do GPs get enough support to deal with mental health issues in practice?

Written by Aaron Frost

As I’m sure you’ve noticed in the press and on Social Media over the last few days,  this week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

According to the World Health Organisation, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

Thankfully it has felt, to me at least, that mental health is slowly becoming less of a taboo subject (largely due to the campaigning efforts of organisations like MIND and the Samaritans, as well as initiatives run in schools and in the workplace).

Talking about mental health is obviously the first part of the journey (and I imagine one of the hardest parts to overcome for the sufferer) and is something everyone should be encouraged to do - but I have wondered what impact this has on GPs surgeries, as I imagine they are usually the first port of call for accessing practical support on the NHS.

In a MIND survey of 1000 GPs, they reported that 40 per cent of GP consultations now involve mental health issues and four out of five GPs agreed there should be a wider range of options for mental health training – it certainly feels that a better structure is needed to help struggling patients more efficiently .

There IS hope - in the shape of more mental health therapists in GP practices!

Currently, NHS England are looking to introduce 3,000 mental health therapists into primary care, with over 800 within surgeries. This is enormously important in order to reduce the GP’s workload, but this should by no means be the end of the investment.  One of the largest controversies is that there is still only one compulsory module dedicated to mental health for GP trainees, which feels insufficient considering (on average) 2 in 5 consultations every day will be related to mental wellbeing.

A quote from a locum GP on the MIND website gave further insight into the shortfall between a GP’s mental wellbeing training and the requirement in relation to this very topic:

“As a locum GP, I cover for GPs when they're off sick, meaning I get to choose where I work, when I work and what I do, which helps me manage my own wellbeing. Offering more mental health training to trainee GPs, would allow them to feel more confident when dealing with the high volume of patients experiencing these types of problems. Ensuring they have the tools to recognise their own mental health needs as well as those of their patients is essential.” Dr Barbara Compitus

Mental health issues have been misunderstood, dismissed and overlooked for far too long. Although there are encouraging signs of change, do you as a GP find that, in practice, you have enough training and resources available to combat this epidemic?  Or do you find that it is still an underdeveloped area for treatment?

I’d love to know your views on what the industry must carry out to effectively help those suffering with mental health issues….and if all of these arguably great initiatives are happening quickly enough!!!

McGinley Healthcare Ltd is a company registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 7216155. Registered office: 56 Clarendon Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD17 1DB.

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