In The News28 Jul 2011
Mental health remains the poor relation
The gulf between physical and mental health is huge, with just £11bn of the National Health Service’s annual budget spent on the latter.
It’s the classic iceberg syndrome, and what is starting to emerge from beneath the waterline of public awareness is just how many people are affected by mental illness at some time in their lives.
The rise in mental illness and its impact on society has long been predicted by bodies as diverse as the World Bank, British Medical Journal and Royal College of Psychiatrists. One in four of us will be affected by mental illness during our lives. Dementia will beset more than one million people in the UK by 2015, and many GPs see as many patients for depression as high blood pressure, which is the commonest physical ailment.
This increase is evident in the number of patients showing up at surgeries across north London with mental health problems.
This is reported to be as many as 50% of consultations in some surgeries, with common conditions including depression and anxiety.
It is a major concern within our profession, because GPs are often isolated and at the coalface of the problem. We see the impact of poor mental health on a daily basis and wrestle with the dilemma of what can be done within the confines of a 10-minute appointment slot.
It may be that the newly emerging clinical consortia boards provide an opportunity to redress the balance if given adequate financial resources.
One solution would be for primary and mental health trusts to pay greater attention to what GPs have to say. This would improve efficiencies without necessarily increasing costs.
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