Last reviewed 12 May 2022

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, which is taking place from 9 to 15 May 2022, the results of a survey have been published which suggest that pressure on the NHS means two thirds of GPs are having to provide specialist mental health support beyond their competence.

The survey of 569 GPs, conducted by Pulse magazine, revealed a three-stage impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health services and primary care.

According to the survey, the majority of GPs said they were practising mental health care beyond their competence which in turn, was helping fuel a mental health crisis within general practice itself.

Of those surveyed, 70% said they were providing mental health support outside of their competence to children and 63% said the same for adults.

Details of the survey results uncovered situations over the last two years where secondary mental health services have attempted to pass work to GPs, including requests to take on the prescribing of antipsychotic medication before a patient has been stabilised, to initiate patients on ADHD medication, perform weekly ECGs and bloods for eating disorders and prescribe for and monitor patients with gender dysphoria. The survey also found that one in 10 respondents said they had to initiate antidepressants for children and young people at least once a month due to a lack of options.

When GPs were asked about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health services and the support they were having to provide:

  • 86% cited dealing with suicidal ideation in adults

  • 81% were dealing with mental health crises in adult patients

  • 70% were monitoring patients who should be monitored by a specialist team

  • 69% said diagnosing children and adolescents with mental health issues

  • 66% had been dealing with suicidal ideation in children.

NHS England is currently working on a draft implementation plan for mental health waiting time standards, which include a 24-hour target for urgent mental health care. However, it will be subject to government approval. The waiting time standards were proposed as part of an NHS England consultation, which ran from July to September last year.