GPS call for more investment in mental health provision

Article date: 16 June 2011

  • 58% of GPs say the quality of NHS care provided for mental health patients is poor
  • Over half (52%) of GPs cite the lack of support for patients with mental health issues as their key concern
  • 45% of GPs believe mental health will be the biggest health issue in 2011.

New research from Aviva UK Health reveals that better support services and a change in patient attitude are essential if the provision of care for mental health patients is to be improved.1

Aviva’s 2011 Health of the Nation research reveals that while the quality of care for patients with physical conditions such as cancer and heart disease is felt to have improved in recent years, nearly three in five (58%) GPs feel that the quality of care provided by the NHS for mental health issues is poor.

This clearly demonstrates that a focused approach from the Government on healthcare issues can pay dividends. With nearly half (45%) of GPs saying that stress and mental health conditions will be the biggest health issues that they’ll treat in 2011, now’s the time for the spotlight to be turned to mental health.

Drugs used as ‘quick-wins’ as patients face long waits for support

Over a quarter of GPs (26%) say that it’s hard to help patients with mental health problems because there’s little access to support services in their area and over half (52%) say the lack of support for patients is their key health concern.

While 65% of GPs only recommend tablets such as anti-depressants when they are a viable solution, over a third (35%) admit to prescribing pills as a "quick-win" solution when patients face long waiting lists for support. Reassuringly, two in five (41%) feel that there should be less reliance on drugs as a "catch-all" solution. Counselling is a popular alternative with 38% of GPs recommending this route. 

Public need educating on mental health issues

Over a quarter (28%) of GPs feel that patients have unreasonable expectations with many believing that there’s a "cure all" pill for mental health conditions. The research also highlights how the stigma associated with mental health continues. While well over a third of GPs (38%) say that mental health conditions are easy to treat as long as they are attuned to what the patient is really asking, an equal number of GPs (38%) also say that it depends whether the patient is trying to hide the condition. 

GPs call for support from employers

Nearly two out of five GPs (38%) feel that mental health is a social issue rather than medical. The same amount say they find it hard to treat patients with mental health conditions as they can’t treat the root cause of the problem. It’s therefore not surprising that over half (55%) of GPs feel that they need more support from employers to help prevent workplace stress.

 Dr Doug Wright, head of clinical development, Aviva UK Health says: “Our research re-emphasises that there are two issues to overcome to help improve the quality of care available to patients with mental health conditions. Firstly, there’s a need for increased investment into mental health support services. The condition is complex and GPs need to be able to tailor their support to suit their patient’s exact needs.

“There’s also a need for improved education about mental health issues – in terms of prevention, recognition of symptoms and acceptance of the illness. Employers have a key role to play in this process. It’s important that line managers receive the appropriate training to help them recognise the signs of stress and put their employees in touch with the right support services at the right time. People need to be confident that they can talk about mental health without embarrassment or fear.

“It’s reassuring to see that the Government’s current mental health strategy recognises these issues and is focusing on the areas GPs feel will best improve patient care.”    

The GPs that took part in the Health of the Nation study are also calling for :

  • Better support services from the NHS (65%)
  • More investment in mental health provision (57%)
  • More time with patients to probe their concerns (45%)
  • Better education for the public and employers to help prevent stress (41%).

Aviva's bi-annual Health of the Nation study canvassed the views of over 200 GPs on issues relating to their working practice and patient care. 

The results are thought provoking and provide an incisive commentary on the position of healthcare at this moment in time, as well as an insight into GPs thoughts about the future. The full 2011 Health of the Nation report will be published by Aviva this summer.  


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:
Melissa Loughran 
Aviva Press Office: 01904 452791 / 07800 691947 

1 Aviva commissioned extensive research among a panel of 208 GPs across the UK. The sample is broadly representative of the UK across age, gender, region, practice size (by patient numbers and number of GP’s working in practice) and how long the GP has been practicing. GPs were interviewed between 9 and 11 May 2011. The research was conducted online on behalf of Aviva by independent research company Pollab. 

Notes to editors:  

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