​How Out-of-Hours GPs Can Help Mental Health Patients

​Mental health doesn’t have a timeframe. This is why it’s important that mental health patients get the help and support that they need, when they need it. Out of hours services can go a long way towards treating those with mental health concerns, and it’s important that doctors know how to support patients in getting the care they need. Mental health is a growing concern and priority in the UK, so what can out-of-hours GPs do to help?

Mental health and out of hours

Recent figures from MIND, the mental health charity, have revealed that 40% of GP appointments are mental health-related. These figures reflect the rise seen by GPs in the number of patients they face dealing with mental health issues, as more people seek treatment for psychological illness.

However, mental health appointments aren’t just needed during surgery opening hours. Any health condition that is considered urgent should be treated at out-of-hours clinics. Out-of-hours provides patients with several services, including psychiatric help, which can be crucial in helping mental health patients to stay safe.

How out-of-hours GPs can help mental health patients

The NHS’ First Response for Mental Health Scheme has seen A&E admissions for mental health conditions decrease by a third in Cambridge, with patients being able to seek help more locally, as well as receive advice on the phone. The scheme has meant that mental health patients get access to the right help and advice sooner, allowing them to seek support at any time of the day or night.

However, in order for these services to be effective, GPs need to have the right understanding and awareness of mental health issues. Currently, only one of the 21 compulsory modules for initial GP training is dedicated to mental health – which seems disproportionate to the volume of mental health cases dealt with on a daily basis. Currently, doctors have the option of completing mental health placements, although these typically take place in hospitals as opposed to in the community, where there seems to be an urgent need.

Doctors are supportive of the plans for greater mental health training, with 80% of doctors in favour of gaining further insight into mental health issues. Mind have also called for more mental health therapists to be connected to GP surgeries, which could allow some relief to the growing workloads faced by practices. The NHS has outlined plans to introduce 3,000 new therapists by next year, and while this is yet to come to fruition, it could now happen under the NHS Long Term Plan, which is promising more funding to primary care.

By undertaking the right training and seeking opportunities to learn more about mental health care, out of hours GPs can provide more of the services urgently needed by mental health patients. Providing faster, more targeted advice for mental health patients could reduce waiting times and allow doctors to diagnose or offer support quicker.

Out-of-hours mental health services are extremely important in cutting down A&E admissions and providing round-the-clock help to those who need it. If you’re interested in making a difference through out-of-hours, see our latest job vacancies and apply today.