Call for more recognition of GPs’ role in mental healthcare

Jolyon Attwooll

14/09/2023 4:28:07 PM

With mental health the most common presentation in general practice, the RACGP has said more could be done to improve access and outcomes.

GP with patient
Patients often present for one condition and then talk about mental health concerns.

The Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Psychological Medicine has said more support is needed to help general practice look after patients’ mental health.
Speaking on R U OK? day, a suicide prevention initiative, Dr Cathy Andronis said that patients often rely on their GP as the first point of call for patients’ mental health.
‘More must be done to boost mental healthcare outcomes across Australia,’ she said.
‘This includes government properly recognising the central role GPs play as the most accessible part of the mental healthcare system.
‘GPs do a wonderful job managing patients with mental health issues and this is often not recognised as we keep people out of hospital.’
In the RACGP’s most recent Health of the Nation report, mental health presentations were recorded as the most common issue in general practices for the sixth consecutive year, with 38% of consultations including a mental health component.
Patients also said they are more likely to see a GP for their mental health than any other healthcare professional.
Dr Andronis welcomed some measures in the Federal Budget this year, including the introduction of Medicare rebates for consults lasting more than an hour.
However, she said boosting Medicare rebates for Level C and Level D items would also make a ‘tremendous difference’.
‘That is because one of the main issues for mental health services in general practice is how long they take to do properly,’ she said.
‘You can’t rush through a patient talking about complex mental health issues. Patients can often present for one condition and then during the consultation talk about concerns they have with their mental health.
‘It’s becoming commonplace for GPs to be treating a patient’s mental and physical health within the same consultation, and that takes time.’
Dr Andronis also highlighted pressures on access to other mental health support services such as psychologists and psychiatrists in rural and regional areas.
‘We are often the first person patients turn to when discussing their mental health and sometimes the only healthcare professional caring for those in the “missing middle”,’ she said.
A series of presentations on mental healthcare including how to best identify and treat people experiencing eating disorders; evaluating the psychological deficits associated with long COVID; using art to help people with anxiety; and group cognitive behavioural therapy for managing stress in healthcare workers will take place at the WONCA conference from 26–29 October. For more details and to register, see the WONCA website.
Log in below to join the conversation.

mental health R U OK day

newsGP weekly poll How long do you usually spend completing a review of a GP Mental Health Plan?

newsGP weekly poll How long do you usually spend completing a review of a GP Mental Health Plan?



Login to comment

Dr Isaac   15/09/2023 11:35:12 AM

More recognition role for GPs .... aren't we recognized yet! very strange ...
And why do people see the GPs ? just to get a FUNDED sessions with psychologists , nothing else fancy about it . Do people really talk about their issues? NO .... people are just for hit and run referral.
People don't perform well at work , it is my mental health
People don't want to work and need Centrelink, it is my mental health
People have trouble with the law , it is my mental health
People are doing illegal things, it is my mental health
Don't do well at school, it is my mental health and my ADHD ....
Can we change people ? NO
Can you treat personality disorder? NO
Seems the mental health is the chewing gum these day and it will escalate ......