Offer longer consultations for mental health, urges senior GP

GPs should provide longer consultations and separate waiting areas to patients with serious mental health illnesses as they are still not receiving adequate healthcare, according to a senior GP.

Professor Helen Lester: GPs must make mental health 'core business'

Professor Helen Lester, RCGP mental health commissioning lead, told the college’s annual general meeting that GPs need to make people with conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder their ‘core business’.

Many of these patients miss out on basic tests such as BP checks, she said. This can be down to poor organisation in practices, and the stigmatising views of some GPs, Professor Lester said.

Consultations are not always long enough to address the various physical, mental and social issues experienced by these patients, she added.

Professor Lester, who also leads QOF indicator piloting for NICE, suggested GPs should not just screen for these illnesses but also actively intervene, and from an early age. Patient notes should be red-flagged so they can book longer consultations with the same GP who is familiar with their history, she said.

Practices could also consider having a designated waiting area for these patients away from often noisy waiting rooms, she added.

Professor Lester said: ‘The health and healthcare of people with serious mental illness is our business. People with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder need better care than they currently receive. I hope you see that there are many things that cost little, that are based on simple observations, not rocket science, that we could introduce tomorrow into routine general practice.’

She added: ‘GPs need to remember that we can be the holders of hope. We need to say repeatedly at the start of the illness that 50% of people make a good recovery so that people don’t feel written off.’

  • Watch Professor Lester's speech below:

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