Most GP trainees miss out on mental health training placements

Less than half of GP trainees undertake placements in mental health settings, according to an investigation by a leading charity.

Data obtained by mental health charity Mind through freedom of information requests to Health Education England (HEE) and the Welsh Deanery show that just 46% of GP trainees undertook a training placement in a mental health setting.

It hit out at the fact that the only mental health-related option available to GP trainees is in psychiatry, which is secondary care-focused and based in hospitals.

The charity also questioned why qualified GPs were not required to ensure that any of their CPD hours related to mental health, despite one in three GP consultations now being linked to this. 

Responding to the findings, the RCGP repeated its long-standing call to extend GP training to allow greater emphasis on mental health, calling for priority to be given to child mental health.

GP training

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘Mental health is a key component of the RCGP training curriculum that all GP trainees must follow and demonstrate their competence in before they can practise independently as family doctors in the UK.

‘We have been making the case for some time that specialist GP training should be extended from three to four years in order to focus more time on mental health, and child health, reflecting the changing GP caseload and the increasing number of patients who are presenting with mental health issues. We hope that today’s call from Mind will help strengthen our case.

‘Today’s figures underline the urgency of implementing the pledges made in NHS England’s GP Forward View for greater investment in general practice services and for every GP practice to have access to a dedicated mental health therapist.’

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.’

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