GPs and practice nurses are not being offered enough training in mental health, show new figures from the mental health charity Mind.
Data obtained through Freedom of Information requests reveal that less than half (46%) of trainee GPs completed a training placement in a mental health setting between 2013 and 2015.
The charity also found that mental health training is not a necessary component of GPs’ continuing professional development, and that in its survey of over 1,000 primary care staff, 82% of practice nurses said they feel ill-equipped to deal with aspects of mental health and 42% said they had not had any mental health training.
Despite the majority (90%) of people who receive treatment for mental health problems being seen solely within primary care, psychiatry was found to be the only option offered to trainee GPs in mental health.
In its report, the charity says: ‘GPs and practice nurses play a vital role in supporting the 1 in 4 people who experience a mental health problem in any given year. However, too often GPs and practice nurses have not been given sufficient training and support to enable them to provide the best possible care for people with mental health problems.’
Mind is calling on the government to ensure ‘comprehensive’ and ‘relevant’ mental health training for all GPs and practice nurses. It makes a number of recommendations for improving the mental health training of primary care staff and the pre-qualifying training for GPs, and for providing continuing professional development in mental health.
Responding to the findings of the report, Chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), Professor Maureen Baker, said: ‘Mental health is a key component of the RCGP training curriculum that all GP trainees must follow and demonstrate their competence in before they can practise independently as family doctors in the UK.
She went on: ‘We are very supportive of protected learning time for GPs, although it is hard to see how this could happen in the current climate where overstretched GPs are already working longer and longer hours and seeing more and more patients to try and keep pace with demand.
‘Today’s figures underline the urgency of implementing the pledges made in NHS England’s GP Forward View for greater investment in general practice services and for every GP practice to have access to a dedicated Mental Health therapist.’