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30-05-2011 | General practice | Article

NICE advises GPs on mental health


NICE - Common mental health disorders: identification and pathways to care

NICE has issued new guidance for GPs to help them identify and manage patients presenting with common mental health disorders.

The guidance encourages GPs to be alert to possible depression and anxiety disorders, particularly if the patient has a past history, possible somatic symptoms, chronic physical illness or recent traumatic event.

In addition, it provides advice for commissioners on developing referral and care pathways, recommending psychological therapies as part of a stepped-care approach.

Only a small minority of people who experience anxiety disorders ever receive treatment, the guidance notes.

Dr Barbara Compitus, a GP in Bristol who helped develop the guidance, explained that 90% of common mental health disorders are treated in primary care, and that over a third of GP time is spent helping people with mental health problems.

She said: "Because patients present in diverse ways GPs need practical and accessible tools to further increase recognition of common mental health disorders. This guidelines delivers these tools and will enable GPs to drive up the quality and consistency of care provided."

RCGP Chair Dr Clare Gerada said: "GPs can see patients with two, three or four different conditions and while we have a myriad of guidance, it can be difficult to know where to start. The new NICE resource is really helpful as it lists the various common mental health disorders all on one page for easy reference and brings together existing guidelines."

Some experts voiced concern that access to services offering psychological therapies are already stretched.

Hull GP Tony Kendrick, Professor of Primary Care and Dean at Hull York Medical School, who led the guidelines development team, told GP magazine that availability and quality of services was "patchy" at present, but that progress is being made.

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price