Workers Party representative in the South Derry area, Hugh Scullion, has called for all GPs to undertake mandatory training and on-going professional development in mental health and suicide prevention and for an immediate and significant increase in the mental health budget.
“Because GPs are independent contractors they can choose what services they provide. Only around two-thirds of GP practices currently provide any form of in house counselling as part of their GP contract.” Hugh explained
Shortfall “The Health and Social Care Board, which commissions services in Northern Ireland, claims the shortfall for people with mild to moderate mental health conditions is covered by a range of community and voluntary organisations but the reality is that mental health services are woefully underfunded.
We currently spend a mere £2.29 per person on Mental Health Counselling services”, he said.
Suicide rates “An additional £50 million was promised over a year ago to support mental health services, but that has not been delivered. As we stagger on without a government at Stormont the levels of mental health problems increase, and suicide rates continue to rise. This is an intolerable situation”, added Hugh
“I am very happy to support the Participation and Practice of Rights (PPR) group which is campaigning for improved mental health services locally and across Northern Ireland”, he said
Specifically the PPR is calling for
- counselling services in all GP practices
- training for all GPs on mental health and suicide prevention
- a mental health worker in every GP practice
“Counselling has been proven to very often be a lower cost and more effective treatment option than medication yet waiting lists for GP practice-based counselling range from between three to six months, and sometimes longer.
“GP contracts must be amended to include the provision of in-house counselling and the money to develop and support mental health services must be released immediately”, Hugh concluded