Forty per cent of all GP appointments now see patients raise a mental health problem, a survey has revealed.
More than 1,000 GPs took part in the study, which also found that two in three GPs had seen an increase in the number of patients needing help with their mental health over the past 12 months.
The survey conducted by Mind adds weight to a growing body of evidence that suggests mental health is becoming an increasingly large part of a GP’s workload.
Our sister publication Pulse reported last year that there had been an ‘85% increase’ in patients with mental health conditions in the past five years.
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: ‘GPs want to offer the best possible care to their patients and are working hard to do so, despite the challenges created by a decade of underfunding. At the same time, the number of patients needing help with mental health problems is increasing.
‘We not only need greater investment in community-based training to give GPs more opportunity to develop their skills but also a significant increase in mental health therapists directly linked to practices. This would reduce the unacceptable delays many patients currently face getting access to the care they need.’
Earlier this month NHS England announced it had recruited nearly 600 mental health workers and 700 clinical pharmacists to help ease the pressure on GPs.
It follows a pledge by NHS England in April 2016 to fully fund 3,000 mental health therapists to work in general practice by 2021, as part of the General Practice Forward View.
Practices can also reduce pressure on GPs by introducing social prescribing, which according to The King’s Fund can benefit ‘people with mild or long-term mental health problems, vulnerable groups, people who are socially isolated, and those who frequently attend either primary or secondary health care’.
The RCGP recently called for every practice to have a social prescriber, after carrying out a survey that showed that three out of four GPs see between one and five people a day who come in mainly because they are lonely.
Kay Keane, practice manager at Stockport’s Alvanley Family Practice said social prescribing has helped her practice offer alternative solutions to patients suffering from social anxiety, isolation and loneliness.
She said: ‘Working on our social prescribing strategy and signposting patients to alternatives has reduced the demand for some patients but we have still seen an increase in patients presenting with complex mental health problems and health anxiety.
‘We are also working more closely to develop robust links with organisations that offer alternative solutions to support the treatment of mental health issues like exercise, outdoor activities and art.’
This story was first published on our sister publication Pulse.
Additional reporting by Valeria Fiore.