New statistics have highlighted how little training GPs and practice nurses are being offered in mental health, according to a charity.
Mind highlighted previous survey findings showing that 82% of practice nurses in England feel ill-equipped to deal with aspects of mental health for which they are responsible.
“Offering more training would help patients get the best outcomes”
In addition, 42% said they had received no mental health training at all, noted the charity in a new report – titled Better equipped, better care: Improving mental health training for GPs and practice nurses.
Meanwhile, data obtained by Mind showed that, on average, only 46% of trainee GPs undertook a training placement in a mental health setting.
Furthermore, the only mental health-related option offered to trainee GPs was in psychiatry, which is based in hospitals and secondary care-focussed.
The charity highlighted that its findings on clinical education and training contrasted with the fact that the vast majority of people treated for mental health problems are seen within primary care – with 90% doing so solely in primary care settings.
Given how big a role primary care staff play for people with mental health problems, Mind said it was calling on the government to ensure all GPs and practice nurses received structured mental health training that was “comprehensive, relevant and supports their ongoing development”.
It is also urging people to sign a petition calling on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to improve mental health training for trainee GPs and practice nurses.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “GPs and practice nurses have an incredibly difficult job to do, under enormous pressure and demands.
“A significant number of patients they come into contact with will have experienced mental health problems, yet many primary care staff tell us they haven’t had sufficient training to be able to deal with them,” he said.
He added: “Providing structured mental health training to primary care staff would help ensure they have the knowledge and confidence to provide quality mental health support to the many patients coming through their doors who are struggling with their mental health.”
“Offering more training would help patients get the best outcomes while also alleviating some of the pressure GPs and practice nurses experience on a daily basis,” he noted.
Kathryn Yates, the Royal College of Nursing’s professional lead for primary and community care said the “huge amount of demand” on primary and community settings posed by mental health “simply not reflected in the training available”.
“More training for primary care staff would not only help people to manage their mental health and wellbeing better, but could also ease pressure on other parts of the health service,” she said.
Case study: student nurse
The charity also quoted Felicity, 27, who is studying for a mental health nursing degree in Plymouth but has personal experience of the issue.
She said: “Having a supportive GP who understood mental illness made all the difference. I initially went about my ear infection, but because he asked how other things were, I ended up breaking down in tears and explaining that I wasn’t in a good place mentally either. He talked me through options, such as talking therapy and antidepressants, and arranged a follow up appointment.
She said: “When I went back to the GP after a fortnight, I decided to take citalopram and he signed me off work for a further week. I ended up leaving my job and moving down to Devon to be near my family.
“I now have a new partner, and I’m working towards my dream job of becoming a mental health nurse,” she said. “A lot of what has happened was down to my GP, who was so much better than I ever could have hoped.
“I know not all patients are as fortunate which is why I support Mind’s call to improve mental health training for GPs and practice nurses,” she added.