Mental Health Rights Campaign calls for parity of esteem between physical and mental health

A key issue repeatedly highlighted in surveys carried out by the Mental Health Rights Campaign among service users and their families/carers has been the lack of timely and appropriate services provided by GPs. In 2015 58% of people surveyed indicated that waiting times to see GPs were unsatisfactory or very unsatisfactory while less than half ( 41%) felt that their GP had offered them the most appropriate type of care. 

 
 In response to this the Mental Health Rights Campaign is exploring why these problems exist and what solutions exist. One specific area where people feel improvement is needed is around the level of expertise GPs have in relation to mental health. One way in which GPs level of knowledge and skill around mental health can be improved is through accreditation as Practitioners with Special Interest in Mental Health. 
 
A GP with a Special Interest (GPwSI) supplements their role as a generalist by providing an additional service while still working in the community. Among other specialisms, GPs can be accredited as Practitioners with a Special Interest in Mental Health.  GPs with this accreditation can respond more effectively to people presenting with mental health issues and can help improve access to appropriate clinical services where needed. 
 

GPwSIs can improve patient care in a number of important ways:

·         reduce costs and unnecessary secondary care referrals, helping divert referrals to a service provided by the GPwSI or extended scope practitioners

·         improve skills and facilitate more effective management of patients in primary care, using the GPwSI’s insight into general practice and their specialty to disseminate education and training

·         help improve clinical services for patients by reducing delays, improving access and keeping care closer to home

·         enhance patient care by managing a condition at a specialist level, but also take a holistic approach to co-existing multi-morbidities

 
The Mental Health Rights Campaign decided it would be useful to find out how many GPs there are with this accreditation in Northern Ireland. They also thought it would be important to know where they are located, given the correlation between social deprivation and poverty and higher levels of mental ill health ( The rate of mental health problems in the most deprived areas (30%) was double the rate in the least deprived areas (15%) and 63% higher than the NI average. 
 
Shouldn't be too difficult to get hold of information, right? Wrong. Here's a timeline to date of how campaigners have been sent around in circles in a quest for this information. Why is this information not readily available and why do none of the health bodies, including the Department of Health seem to know where this information is held? 

3 Aug 2016

Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Department of Health:

“Please provide information on the number and location ( by electoral ward or nearest measurement) of GPs in Northern Ireland who have been accredited as Practitioners with a Special Interest in Mental Health ( PwSI)*”

4 Aug 2016

Response from Department of Health

we do not hold the information requested. It may be held by the Business Services Organisation

4 Aug 2016

FOI to the Business Services Organisation ( BSO) requesting information relating to PsWI accreditations.

10 Aug 2016

Response from the Business Services Organisation ( BSO)

I can confirm that BSO do not hold information relating to PsWI accreditations. This information may be held by each individual HSC Trust

26 Aug 2016

FOI to Belfast Health and Social Care Trust ( BHSCT) requesting information relating to PsWI accreditations.

7 Sept 2016

Response from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Belfast Trust does not hold this information. You may wish to contact the Health and Social Card Board who may have this information

1 Sept 2016

FOI to Northern Health and Social Care Trust ( NHSCT) requesting information relating to PsWI accreditations

13 Sept 2016

Response from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust

GPs are independent practitioners not employed by the Trust. GP numbers can be found on the BSO website

 

23 September 2016

No response received from either the Southern Health and Social Care Trust or the Southern Trust within the 20 working days are required by the Freedom of Information legislation.

 

4 October 2016

FOI submitted to Health and Social Care Board

Please provide information on the number and location ( by electoral ward or nearest measurement) of GPs in each of the five Health and Social Care Trusts who have been accredited as Practitioners with a Special Interest in Mental Health ( PwSI)?

Response due by 1 November 2016.  We’re not holding our breaths.

 

*A GP with a Special Interest (GPwSI) supplements their role as a generalist by providing an additional service while still working in the community.