By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Kent NHS bosses have been called on to provide more mental health staff to support GP doctors.
The coronavirus crisis has prompted a growing demand for mental health services across the UK.
Calls have been made to increase the number of practitioners to support GPs, whose 13 districts including Medway, have a population of around 1.8million.
Bill Millar, who is the director of primary care at Kent and Medway CCG, said extra funding was being made available for GPs as the NHS seeks to broaden the workforce to include more specialist roles. Costs have not been disclosed.
Three new roles were created last month, including mental health practitioners, advanced practitioners and community paramedics.
It comes as the county’s GP surgeries have seen a rising demand for mental health services since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last March.
Two months ago, a £51 million package to transform mental health services across Kent by 2026 was unveiled.
The “ambitious” NHS plan will seek to radically improve care for dementia patients, including those with complex needs and challenging behaviour.
Earlier today, Mr Millar told the CCG’s primary care committee: “We have explained to all practices that additional support is being made available.”
Thanet GP Dr Suzi Marsden said more resources would help to relieve the “blockage” of not having enough mental health clinicians at the surgeries.
Dr Marsden, of the Grange Practice in Ramsgate, revealed that she has been keeping track of patients every four to eight weeks that are struggling to cope.
She added: “I hope we are able to speed up the process for filling roles to get mental health practical support in GPs.
“I would like to make more appointments available for other patients. It would be great to see some progress in this soon.”
A survey carried out by the Royal College of GPs last year said one in six patients in Kent felt their mental health problems were unrecognised.
At the time, they called for longer appointment slots and more resources to be made available for overworked staff during the pandemic.