Dr Maureen Baker: Early intervention key in mental health

It is a travesty that in the 21st century, people with mental health problems are more susceptible to serious physical illness and still more likely to die up to 20 years earlier than others of the same age and background.

Mental illness costs the economy up to £100bn every year, and accounts for 70m sick days a year. There is an urgent need to reassess the way funding is allocated in the NHS, so services in the community have adequate resources to deliver more proactive, planned care.

Early intervention is the key in helping patients with mental health problems manage their condition, and GPs play an integral part in this.

We can ensure their physical health needs, as well as their mental health, are given attention.

The RCGP has identified mental health as an enduring clinical priority and made youth mental health a priority. We aim to give patients with mental health problems the same parity of esteem as those with physical health problems.

We were pleased to see the government's vision for mental health services in England, Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020.

Some key targets in the report include:

  • Treatment within six weeks for 75% of patients referred to Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, with 95% treated within 18 weeks
  • Treatment within two weeks for more than 50% of those with a first episode of psychosis
  • £30m investment to help patients in crisis to access effective support in more acute hospitals

The RCGP website offers many resources to support GPs and their teams treating patients with mental health problems, including the Lester cardiometabolic tool.

This is named after Professor Helen Lester, former chairwoman of the RCGP Clinical Innovation and Research Unit, and a champion of those with mental illness.

We have launched the Helen Lester Appeal for Mental Health Research, aiming to raise £200,000 to support mental health research in primary care and improve the lives of those living with mental health problems across the UK.

  • Dr Baker is a GP in Lincoln.

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