GPs need more time to help treat complex health needs, says RCGP

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has warned that GPs do not have enough time to really attend to their mentally ill patients

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on the RCGP website.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to findings published in Mind’s annual Big Mental Health survey. The survey found that 1 in 6 people prescribed medication for mental illness were not given enough information about their purpose, and that less than half of respondents felt able to discuss both mental and physical health problems in the same appointment. These findings reflect the sheer time pressure GPs are under and how the current system is failing patients.

She said: “GPs are specialist prescribers and will only recommend medications based on the individual circumstances of a patient, taking into account physical, psychological and social factors, and after a full and frank discussion around treatment options.

“This will always aim to include any common or potentially serious side effects, and an expectation of how long medication may take to work. We also ask patients, wherever possible, to familiarise themselves with the comprehensive information leaflets that should come included with every pack of their medication.

“Patients who have been prescribed medication for mental health conditions will be invited to have regular medicine reviews with their GP, and pharmacists will also be able to help with any queries or concerns.

“However, general practice is under extreme pressures and the standard 10-minute GP consultation is simply inadequate to properly deliver care to patients with complex health needs – which mental health conditions invariably are. We need greater investment in general practice so that we can spend more time with our patients.

“The College is also calling for longer GP training, based in appropriate community settings so that our future doctors are as prepared as they possibly can be to deal with the complexities of modern-day general practice.”

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