DH to end 'unfair' GP fees for mental health debt form

Prime minister Theresa May has pledged to end the current system that sees GP practices charge patients for completing mental health debt forms as part of plans to overhaul mental health services.

Theresa May: pledge to end 'unfair' charge for mental health debt form
Theresa May: pledge to end 'unfair' charge for mental health debt form

The RCGP backed government plans to review child and adolescent mental health services, one of a series of steps the government has pledged to take to 'transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life'.

Steps announced by the prime minister include a CQC-led review of child and adolescent mental health services across England, with plans for better links between schools and mental health teams and training for all secondary schools on mental health first aid.

The government will also work with employers to improve mental health support at work, and invest in new community facilities to offer help for mental health issues outside of hospitals and GP practices, and invest in online mental health support tools.

It has also committed to a formal review of the debt and mental health form. GP practices often charge patients for completing the form to confirm that they have mental health issues because this work is not funded through the GP contract or other statutory mechanisms.

GP mental health

The review will be carried out with Money and Mental Health, a policy organisation that called for changes after revealing that a third of GP practices charge patients for mental health debt forms.

Official figures show that in 2014 mental health conditions affected almost one in five of all working-age people and around one in seven people in full-time employment.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'It’s encouraging to see mental health, particularly that of our children and young patients, being taken seriously by the prime minister. A lot needs to be done, and urgently, to make these aspirations a reality and make genuine progress towards parity of esteem between mental and physical health.

'While initiatives like "crisis cafes" and community clinics, which allow patients to self refer, are certainly an encouraging step in the right direction to achieving this, the essential role of general practice must also be recognised in these plans. GPs and our teams are often the first port of call for patients with mental health problems, and it is vital we have access to the appropriate resources and services in the community.

'We particularly welcome the prime minister’s announcement of a review of child and adolescent health services in the community, which are currently under severe strain. And greater links between the health and education sectors will certainly be beneficial in helping to identify mental health conditions in young patients earlier, in many cases before they seek medical assistance of their own volition.

'There is a long way to go, but what we are hearing today is a positive step as we strive towards giving mental health the recognition it deserves across society. The government must now implement the pledge made in NHS England’s GP Forward View, to give every GP practice access to a specialist mental health worker, as a matter of urgency.

'Mental health is an enduring priority for the RCGP and we have developed resources to support GPs and our teams deliver the best possible care for our patients with mental health problems.'

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