Subsidised GP training to boost mental health access


Wednesday, 01 September, 2021

Subsidised GP training to boost mental health access

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed a new subsidy for GPs to undertake Focussed Psychological Strategies Skills Training (FPS ST).

RACGP President Dr Karen Price said GPs with specialised mental health skills were needed more than ever.

“The pandemic is not only having a devastating toll on physical health, it’s wreaking havoc on mental health,” she said.

“GPs are seeing more and more patients coming to us who are feeling anxious, stressed and want help. Few people are aware GPs provide the overwhelming majority of mental health care in Australia. We are often the first port of call for patients with concerns.

“Even before the pandemic, mental health was a huge concern in Australia. It has rated as the most common presentation GPs deal with in the RACGP’s annual Health of the Nation survey for consecutive years now.”

The General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC) is offering GPs a $600 subsidy after completing Focussed Psychological Strategies Skills Training. Applications to claim the subsidy open on 1 September 2021. More information is available on the GPMHSC website.

The RACGP offers an online Focussed Psychological Strategies Skills Training course. Those who complete the training become Medicare registered Focussed Psychological Service providers and can provide Focussed Psychological Strategies (FPS) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy-derived counselling to patients.

RACGP is encouraging rural and remote GPs to take up the opportunity. “It’s especially challenging for people in rural and remote communities, because they often don’t have access to local mental health services, such as psychologists, counsellors and psychiatrists,” said RACGP Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements.

“As a rural GP myself, I know there is huge demand for mental health services from the local GP.”

Rural patients tend to have known their GP for a long time and trust them as a confidant, so when it comes to their mental health they often want to see them for help, Clements said.

“And GPs are perfectly placed to provide this help due to the nature of general practice — we provide holistic and ongoing care to patients, we have insights into our patients’ lives and can often be the first one to recognise that something is not quite right and start that conversation.”

The RACGP Rural Chair, who completed FPS training after floods struck his hometown of Townsville, encouraged GPs across the country to take up the training opportunity.

“After my community was affected by flooding, I saw my role suddenly change from being a GP to a flood counsellor as well. I recognised that my patients needed more specialised mental health support, and so I did the training.”

Clements encouraged GPs across Australia, including big cities and remote communities, to “grab this opportunity”.

A 2018 Senate report detailed the gap in mental health services in rural and remote Australia — in regional areas, the per capita number of psychiatrists, mental health nurses and psychologists in 2015 were, respectively, 36%, 78% and 57% of those in major cities. The situation was even worse in remote areas.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/fizkes

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