Invest in primary care to ease 'huge pressures' on mental health, RCGP says

The RCGP has called for more investment in primary care after a report has revealed the 'huge pressure' on psychiatric ward beds has led to some patients being 'sectioned unnecessarily in order to access a bed'.

Prof Gerada: 'Psychiatric training could be done in a specialist setting.'
Prof Gerada: 'Psychiatric training could be done in a specialist setting.'

RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada said that GPs provide up to 85% of NHS care for patients with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

But general practice only receives 9% of the NHS budget despite providing 95% of the care overall in the NHS, she said. Professor Gerada has called for more GPs to enable them to spend longer time with patients with complex conditions.

A report published today by the heath select committee claimed the ‘huge pressure’ on psychiatric ward beds has led to some patients being ‘sectioned unnecessarily in order to access a bed.’

Professor Gerada said that she had never heard of a GP sectioning a patient inappropriately. ‘I would be so surprised and I would think it is virtually impossible because of the checks and balances in the system,’ she added.

The south London GP called for all trainee GPs to undergo psychiatric training.

She said: ‘At the moment not all GPs do an attachment in psychiatry and we [the RCGP] have submitted and passed that extension to GP training will require training in psychiatry and paediatrics. We would say that psychiatric training could be done in a specialist setting, not necessarily secondary care. It could be a community mental health service or a hostel with drug users for example, so that it is not GPs in the practice.’

Committee chairman Stephen Dorrell (Conservative; Charnwood, northern Leicestershire) said: ‘Many psychiatric wards are over capacity and there is huge pressure on beds, nevertheless, we were shocked to learn that there is evidence that patients who need hospital treatment are being sectioned unnecessarily in order to access a bed.

‘This represents a serious violation of patients’ basic rights and it is never acceptable for patients to be subjected to compulsory detention unless it is clinically necessary.'

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