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RACGP welcomes resources to help GPs manage rising mental health concerns

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) welcomes updated resources to support GPs managing rising mental health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RACGP is a member of the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC) which today published revised versions of the GP Mental Health Treatment Plans (MHTPs) templates.

It comes as GPs across the nation are dealing with increasing mental health presentations.

Recent Medicare data showed a 15% increase in Medicare-subsidised mental health services since 16 March, with 7.4 million services provided. This was magnified in Victoria, with the number of subsidised mental health items increasing by 31% between September and October, compared to the same period last year.

The updated GP MHTP templates are based on the latest available evidence for best practice mental health assessment and treatment planning in general practice. The updates include assessment for trauma-informed care and practice and a recovery-orientated approach to help define patient goals.  

The templates support GPs in the management of common mental health illnesses under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS (Better Access) initiative.

RACGP Acting President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda said general practice needed adequate support to manage the wave of mental health concerns.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on the mental health of patients across Australia, particularly in hard hit areas like Victoria.

“As the first port of call for these patients, it is essential that the Government invests adequate resources in primary care so we can provide timely and appropriate mental health support.

“Patients are often more comfortable discussing mental health with their GP with whom they have an ongoing and trusted relationship, they don’t have to approach a new face.

“As a rural GP myself, I’m also well aware that many patients in rural and remote areas have nowhere else to go for mental health support but their local GP.

“So when it comes to addressing the problem of rising mental health concerns, investing in general practice and GPs to help patients is really a no brainer.”

The RACGP has called on Federal Government to help general practice successfully manage the long-term health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and summer bushfires. This includes investing in new Medicare subsidies for longer consultations so GPs can spend more time with their patients to discuss what they’re experiencing and help that is available.

General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC) Chair Associate Professor Morton Rawlin said the updated templates would improve the quality of mental healthcare provision for patients.

“These templates have been updated with the latest available evidence for best practice mental health assessment and treatment in general practice.

“Importantly, we have included assessment for trauma-informed care and practice. This will make a real difference for patients who experience traumatic events, including bushfires, floods and other natural disasters.

“The other key update is the inclusion of the recovery oriented approach, which is designed to help define a patient’s personal goals and enable them to take steps towards their personal recovery.”

“This approach has been shown to make a real difference for patients, giving them the knowledge to direct their own changes to live a fulfilling and meaningful life – with or without the presence of mental health issues.”

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