Train 700 GP mental health specialists by 2020, government told

The NHS should train 700 GP mental health specialists and give all GPs basic mental health training by 2020, a taskforce commissioned by the government has warned.

The DH and NHS England should work with the RCGP and Health Education England to ensure that all GPs learn about mental health as part of their core training, according to the taskforce, led by chief executive of the Mind charity Paul Farmer.

All GPs - including the 5,000 the government plans to train and retain to boost the workforce - should receive this training by 2020, the report says.

The government should also work with these groups to develop 'a new role of GPs with an extended scope of practice in mental health', it says, with 'at least 700 in practice within five years'.

GP mental health role

As part of plans to reduce premature deaths in people with severe mental illness, the report calls for the development of a new primary care-led approach. 'This will involve developing, evaluating and implementing models of primary care whereby GPs and practice nurses take responsibility for delivering the full suite of physical care screenings, outreach, carer training and onward interventions or referrals, in line with NICE guidelines,' it says.

'This model should include outreach workers or carer training to support people to access primary care because many people with psychosis struggle to access services, and give GPs and practice nurses the training and time they need to deliver NICE-concordant screening and care.'

The report also sets out plans for new CCG targets and measures to ensure new models of care being developed across the NHS include mental health in their plans.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said proposals set out in the report were 'encouraging, ambitious and admirable'.

Primary care teams

'We are particularly encouraged by the proposals to expand child mental health services and provide better support for women with perinatal mental health problems – a clinical priority for the college,' she said.

'It is very reassuring that these plans are backed up by the commitment to spend an additional £1bn pounds a year on mental health services by 2020/21.

'However, 90% of all NHS patient contacts are dealt with by GPs and our teams. As such GPs play a vital role in diagnosing patients with mental health problems and providing the care they need to help them live safely in the community – but this is not explicitly reflected in this report.

'As we move forward we would like ensure every GP practice has easy access to trained mental health workers who can deliver therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and other talking therapies, that have been found to be incredibly beneficial for patients. This way our patients can access these important and effective services when they need them, not 28 days or more later, as is currently often the case.'

Health minister Alistair Burt said: 'Today’s report gives a fantastic boost to changes in mental health services, with more care available close to people’s homes. I particularly welcome the fact that young people and new and expectant mums will get the mental health care they need. For our part, we are investing more than ever before in mental health and will make sure the NHS delivers on this plan.'

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