Last updated: 22.01.14

Improved GP mental health training 'will cut NHS spending'

Extending mental health training for GPs could prevent the economic burden of comorbid depression and 
anxiety from escalating.

This is the view of Dr Geraldine Strathdee, national clinical director for mental health at NHS England, who claimed too many healthcare professionals lack basic training in core mental health, GP Online reports.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event in London, Dr Strathdee said that England is spending hundreds of billions of pounds each year on covering the costs of failing to treat mental health conditions.

She noted that around 40 per cent of patients suffering from cancer, stroke or diabetes also experience anxiety or depression, and the financial burden of dealing with this is accelerating.

However, less than one-third of GPs are provided with the access they need to core basic training or postgraduate training.

"I think we can do a huge amount in saving society a lot of money, and an enormous amount of human distress, if we just got our workforce a little more skilled up," Dr Strathdee was quoted by the news provider as saying.

The expert outlined various recommendations for improvement, which include more being done to align primary and secondary care incentives in mental health.

She described the expectations that busy doctors should know all the guidelines and implement them and then give secondary care a different incentive system as "just plain silly".

Moving forward, Dr Strathdee said hospital targets need to be in line with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's Quality and Outcomes Framework, and called for more mental health directed enhanced services and local enhanced services.

Her presentation comes after it was revealed a healthcare training scheme originally developed in Devon could be rolled out across the nation because of its successful impact on local communities.

The initiative led to avoidable hospital admissions to the Northern Devon Healthcare Trust falling from 109 to 54 in June 2013, and a decline in cases of adult safeguarding was also discovered.