Longer GP appointments needed, says Mind Cymru
Mind Cymru is calling for longer GP appointment times and an improved online booking system to help people who need to visit their doctor to discuss their mental health problems, following new research.
A survey carried out by Mind Cymru and independent research charity Picker spoke to more than 550 people and found that a quarter of people felt they didn’t have enough time to talk about everything they wanted to during their appointment.
The overwhelming majority of GP appointments are booked over the phone or in person. Mind Cymru’s survey found that when trying to book an appointment nearly half of people (44 per cent) were asked to provide a reason for why they needed to see someone. Of those, three quarters (75 per cent) weren’t comfortable saying it was for their mental health. More than half (52 per cent) of all respondents said they would prefer online booking yet fewer than one in ten (9 per cent) booked their last appointment this way.
More than 1 in 10 people surveyed have wanted to see their GP or a practice nurse about their mental health in the past year, but haven’t been able to. The main reason for this was people’s poor experience of the service, with one in four (25 per cent) saying they had been put off going again. More than one in ten (11 per cent) weren’t sure if the GP surgery was the right place to get help, almost one in five (17 per cent) said they didn’t think they would get an appointment in time and almost one in seven (14 per cent) were worried about what healthcare professionals would think.
Young people and those experiencing severe and enduring mental health problems had the worst experiences of care overall. A large proportion of mental health service users also have a long-term physical health condition but less than half felt able to discuss their physical health at the same time as their mental health.
Separate research by Mind found that 40 per cent of all GP appointments involve mental health and that demand is rising. Beyond Mind, no other organisation routinely surveys people about their experiences of primary care support for mental health.
Sara Moseley, Director of Mind Cymru, said:
“It’s unacceptable that so many people are struggling to access the support they need, when they need it. We know that there are many barriers to people seeking help from their GP in the first place, but on top of this we are concerned that problems with booking appointments may deter people further. When people do manage to see their GP, experiences are mixed, and young people in particular seem to have much worse experiences of care. Getting the right support early on is critical to preventing more complex problems developing further down the line.
“This is the first survey of its kind on this scale. Since GPs are the first port of call for most people seeking help for their mental health, we wanted to understand people’s experiences of primary care. It is a critical time for mental health care and the most important evidence of whether things are improving is in people’s experiences. We will be running this survey every year so that we can monitor whether services really are improving and using the data to hold services to account.”