Equip GPs with mental health expertise #123GP

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90% of people with a mental health problem will be treated by their GP, but all too often people don’t receive the care they need. One in three GP appointments are for mental health, and calls for better mental health training for GPs have already been made by the Royal College of GPs and mental health charity Mind

Research carried out by the Mental Health Rights Campaign with 70 mental health service users and carers found that most of them were NOT confident about their GP’s ability to help them when it came to mental health. 

Patients felt that there was a big difference between treatment for physical and mental health: “I feel my GP is very good most of the time but with mental health they struggle to understand and I think they aren’t trained to deal with it”. 

Patients also talked about this lack of expertise had a serious effect on them: “the poor service affected the next five years of my life, had my GP known more I could have had a different path”.

The Mental Health Rights Campaign has come up with THREE URGENT CHANGES which could significantly improve mental health care provided by GPs:

  1. Funding: Only two thirds of GP practices currently draw down funding available from the Health and Social Care Board for the provision of counselling, despite all practices being eligible to do so. We call on 100% of GP practices to draw down available Health and Social Care funding for counselling. 
  2. Training: Only half of all trainee GPs have to do a placement in a mental health facility, which is usually hospital based rather than in a community setting. Practising GPs do not have to undertake mental health training as part of their Continuous Professional Development (CPD). We call on all trainee GPs to undertake community based mental health placements and all practising GPs to undertake a set proportion of annual CPD credits which are focused on mental health. 
  3.  Available Expertise: Professionals with mental health expertise, such as Community Psychiatric Nurses ( CPNs) don’t work in GP practices anymore. We call on professionals with mental health expertise to be based in GP practices as part of the primary care team. 

The Department of Health and the Health and Social Care Board have the power to act on these proposals. Please help us send a strong message to them that action is urgently needed to equip GPs with mental health expertise. These changes will benefit not only patients and their families, who are entitled to receive the help they so desperately need, but also GPs who struggle to provide the help needed.



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