More than half of GPs lack the necessary training to provide the right care for mental health patients, an investigation has shown.
Only 46 per cent of new GPs have undertaken a training placement in a mental health setting, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the charity Mind.
The only mental health-related option offered to trainees was in psychiatry, which is based in hospitals and secondary care-focussed.
Once qualified, GPs are under no obligation to have any further training despite the fact an estimated one in three GP appointments is related to mental health.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind said: “For most of us, our local GP practice is the first place we go when we’re unwell, whether it’s related to our physical or mental health. GPs and practice nurses have an incredibly difficult job to do, under enormous pressure and demands.
“A significant number of patients they come into contact with will have experienced mental health problems, yet many primary care staff tell us they haven’t had sufficient training to be able to deal with them. That’s why we’re urging the Government to ensure structured training is in place for trainee and qualified GPs and practice nurses.
“Providing structured mental health training to primary care staff would help ensure they have the knowledge and confidence to provide quality mental health support to the many patients coming through their doors who are struggling with their mental health. Offering more training would help patients get the best outcomes while also alleviating some of the pressure GPs and practice nurses experience on a daily basis.”
Mind said that nurses were also being “let down” with inadequate training with 82 per cent feeling ill-equipped to carry out their jobs properly.
A 2014 study: The Mental health and wellbeing survey: A snapshot of practice nurses’ views regarding responsibility and training, revealed that more than two in five (42 per cent) had no training at all.
Kathryn Yates, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Professional Lead for Primary and Community Care, said: “Mental health problems account for a huge amount of the demand on primary and community services, but this is simply not reflected in the training available. All health and social care staff should view mental health as an essential part of their job, from encouraging people to speak up and seek support or treatment, to supporting families and keeping people as well as possible at home.
“More training for primary care staff would not only help people to manage their mental health and wellbeing better, but could also ease pressure on other parts of the health service. A person with a mental health problem must be able to expect that any staff member they talk to or seek support or treatment from should be fully trained and confident in helping them.”