GP mental health training drive backed by CMO

England's CMO has backed plans for an increased focus on mental health in GP training, as she called on the NHS to give more priority to mental health care.

Four-year GP training should include a focus on mental health, England's CMO says (Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
Four-year GP training should include a focus on mental health, England's CMO says (Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

A period of mental health training should form part of the new four-year training regime being developed by the RCGP and Health Education England, according to Professor Dame Sally Davies.

Her latest report on the health of the nation, Public Mental Health Priorities: Investing in the Evidence, said specific training to raise awareness of the consequences of violence on mental health throughout a patient's life should form a core part of this extended mental health training.

Most GPs 'have little or no relevant training in experiences of violence, may find it difficult to facilitate disclosure by patients experiencing abuse, and are uncertain about further management after disclosure', the report said.

Dame Sally called for integrated mental and physical healthcare across the NHS as a 'crucial' step to achieve parity of esteem and outcomes in mental and physical health.

Equipping GPs

Her recommendations echo calls from the RCGP to extend the focus on mental health as part of plans for four-year GP training.

In January, the RCGP recommended that GP trainees should receive specialist-led training in mental health. The college said it wanted to equip GPs to deal with common mental health problems faced by younger people, such as improving mental resilience, managing anxiety, depression and self-harm, identifying suicide risk and in the early recognition of psychosis.

It said it was working with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Young Minds to develop a system of training.

The CMO's report also advised that any GPs using new technologies to improve mental health should use an approved list of NHS-evaluated, evidence-based approaches.

Professor Sheila Hollins, chair of the BMA's Board of Science, said: 'This new report highlights the need for urgent action to ensure equal value is placed on both patients’ mental and physical health.

'All too often the physical health problems of patients with a mental illness are under-addressed, while the mental health of patients with a physical illness is often neglected.

'We are encouraged by this report and will continue to call for equal treatment for both physical and mental health patients, the reduction of waiting times for mental health patients, and the introduction of equal funding between mental health services and other NHS services.'

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