Call for more access to talking therapies

Aviva recently published the findings of its “Health of the Nation 2012” survey – a comprehensive study of GPs’ views on the UK’s mental and physical health.

The report reveals that over a quarter of GPs (28%) predict that mental health will be the biggest public health issue this year. Over three quarters(79%) said they have noticed an increase in the number of patients reporting with mental health conditions and stress and anxiety; 61% believe there has been an increase in the number of children (5-12 year olds) with mental health problems and 78% that there has been an increase in the number of teenagers (13-19 year olds) with mental health problems.

A key finding of the survey is that GPs are concerned about access to talking therapies. Almost two-thirds (65%) of GPs surveyed said they have prescribed antidepressants in situations where they felt that talking therapies or better social care would be a more appropriate response; of these, 80% have done so due to the long waiting lists for mental health services. 47% said they feel there is a lack of support for GPs in this area.

The survey found that a large number of GPs would like to see greater availability of talking therapies for people with mental health problems – and 28% consider this to be one of the most pressing priorities for the health service.

Responding to the report Peter Martin, Head of Public Affairs at Welsh mental health charity Hafal, said:

“The survey confirms what many of our Members tell us: that talking therapies are not readily available to them.

“The most important point to make about access to talking therapies is that priority must be given to those who need them the most: people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

“In practice talking therapies should be available to our clients as a matter of routine and as part of a comprehensive and holistic package of care and treatment. And of course they should be equally accessible to people across Wales.”