Opinion Former Article

RETHINK - New GP survey shows most don't have expertise to commission in mental health

White paper to hand mental health commissioning to GPs, but most don't have necessary expertise
New GP Survey reveals only 1 in 3 ready for new mental health role
The Government's health white paper expected Monday is set to propose a massive shake up of NHS mental health services, stripping PCTs of the power to commission secondary services and handing it instead to GPs.
But mental health charity Rethink discovered that only 31% of GPs feel equipped to take on the role for mental health. While three quarters of GPs say they can take responsibility for diabetes and asthma services, less than a third felt the same for mental health services.
Rethink is concerned that unless there's a national plan to up-skill GPs in mental health many of the 1.5 million people with severe mental illnesses may fail to get the treatment they need.
Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive of Rethink, said: "GPs with a real interest in mental health can play an invaluable role in supporting more than a million and a half people with severe mental illness. But we often hear from people with mental illness, that GPs don't understand mental health and want to quickly refer them on to specialists. Now GPs themselves are telling us that they have concerns too.
"The proposals expected in the white paper can work, but only if GPs are given proper training and support to understand the needs of people with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. If they are to be given responsibility for deciding what happens to people with severe mental illness, then they also have the right to get properly trained up first".
To arrange an interview or for more information, please call Lily Carter on 020 7840 3144 or 07870 204583
Notes to Editors
251 GPs were interviewed online by ICM Research on behalf of Rethink in June 2010. Interviewees were selected at random from ICM's nationally representative panel of GPs. Results are broadly representative in terms of age, gender and region.
23% of people with mental illness report being discriminated against by their GP. [ref]
Over 1.5 million people in the UK with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression are not getting the cost-effective, evidence-based treatment they need. As a result of not getting this treatment, people with severe mental illness:
. Die up to ten years younger compared with the rest of the population - not just from suicide but from preventable physical illnesses
. End up in prison, or homeless, because they have not received cost-effective treatments which could have prevented this
. Are without meaningful occupations and are more likely to depend on welfare benefits, because they haven't had the right support
Rethink believes severe mental illness must be integral to the coalition government's health policy if savings are able to be made in criminal justice and benefits bills.
Mental health is currently excluded from initiatives such as the Choice agenda and Payments by Results, but including mental health could deliver better services and better value.
The development of a new outcomes-based NHS framework is a golden opportunity to reduce deaths and improve recovery rates. For severe mental illness this means reducing suicide and death from physical conditions, cutting emergency readmissions and shortening the duration of untreated psychosis. It means increasing the information that carers have to support them, improving employment rates, improving crisis care and working for greater public acceptance of mental health issues.

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