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Big drop in mental health referrals in Bucks

One study shows a decline in therapy referrals

Published by Scarlett Bawden-Gaul at 5:55am 24th July 2020. 3-minute read.

Big drop in mental health referrals in Bucks

Two studies have been released looking at mental health services in Buckinghamshire. 

In the county, one in seven patients feel their mental health problems are going unrecognised by their GP. 

These figures come from a survey of 5,593 patients in the NHS Buckinghamshire CCG, with 2,506 having mental health needs of some kind at their last GP appointment,

Of those 14% felt their needs had not been recognised or understood after speaking to their doctor.

Royal College of GPs chairman Professor Martin Marshall said mental health is a priority in general practice, but some conditions are "complex and difficult to diagnose".

"It’s not uncommon for some patients to present with physical issues, such as chest pains, and only after careful assessment would a GP be able to determine if a symptom is due to an underlying physical condition or stress and anxiety.

"The standard 10-minute appointment is not fit for purpose, particularly for complex conditions. If we are to give mental health problems parity of esteem with physical health problems, the reality is GPs will need more time with patients."

GP Sian Roberts, from Buckinghamshire GP says going to the GP is not the only option:

"In Buckinghamshire people don't have to, if they feel they want to get help elsewhere. Patients can self refer to the Healthy Minds service in Buckinghamshire.

"This is very much encouraged as we recognise that not all people want to come to the GP or maybe they're working.

"There is some flexibility around that 10 minutes, but certainly if it looks like there are some complex mental health issues the GP or Practise Nurse would be very likely to extend that appointment."

Another recent study revealed that the number of referrals for mental health issues like anxiety and depression have fallen by over half in a year. 

NHS statistics show 1,075 people were referred to psychological therapies for these issues in the Bucks CCG area last year. 

This number has fallen to just 490 this April - a drop of 54%.

There was also a drop in the number of patients who began therapy during the month – 485 compared to 905, a fall of 46%.

Dr Roberts says COVID-19 is expected to have impacted a range of services like this:

"We have had people who have been very good at social distancing, but fear of contracting covid and also fear of going to a health facility has meant we perhaps have not had as many people presenting as frequently as we might have had before. 

"Whilst we did see the initial dip, over the last month we have seen this increase. So people are starting to access the right care for their mental health needs."

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