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Two in five of all GP consultations see a patient raising or presenting mental health issues, a new survey has shown. It was a wide-ranging consultation of more than 1,000 GPs and found that the same percentage also reported that the number of patients seeking help with mental health problems had increased over the past 12 months.

It has seen the British Medial Association (BMA), the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and mental health charity MIND join forces in writing an open letter to Health Education England to call for GPs’ training to be extended from three to four years.

This, they argue, would give greater opportunity for student GPs to familiarise themselves with a wider range of options when it comes to mental health placement and responses.

As well as providing greater knowledge, it would ensure greater confidence among newly qualified GPs in this area of practice.

And it’s an area that is becoming increasingly pressing in terms of its prominence within a GP’s workload.

In November 2017, another survey found that 85% of GPs had reported an increase in the number of patients with mental health conditions over the previous five years.

Furthermore, they felt sufficiently concerned to refer some 23% of those patients to specialist mental health services.

And a survey of 2,000 adult patients into the main reasons for stress, anxiety and depression found that one-third cited work, one-third cited loneliness or isolation and another third pointed to strained relations with family and/or friends.

It’s part of a more widely recognised problem. In June 2018, NHS England announced that it had recruited almost 600 mental health workers and 700 clinical pharmacists to help lighten the load facing GPs.

And there is a standing commitment, made in April 2016, by the same organisation to attract, recruit and fund an additional 3,000 mental health therapists to work in general practice by 2021.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard commented, “GPs everywhere are noticing a big difference in the number of patients seeking help for their mental health problems.

“This may be because people are becoming more open about raising concerns about their mental health issues but, whatever the reason, we need to ensure that our GPs are as prepared as they possibly can be to deliver care to their patients.”

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