24 October 2019

Launch of standards in primary mental health training and education

The General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC) has launched a guide to help GPs treat patients with mental health issues.

Presented for the first time at the GP19 Conference in Adelaide today, the Mental health training standards 2020-22: A guide for general practitioners (“the Standards”) is a renewed commitment to improve Australia’s primary mental health system.

The focus of the guide is to assist GPs in understanding the specific training required to be eligible to access mental health Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) item numbers under the Better Access initiative.  

The GPMHSC sets the standards for and accredits mental health training for GPs that correspond to MBS item numbers. This includes the preparation of GP Mental Health Treatment Plans and the provision of Focussed Psychological Strategies.

The Standards were developed in consultation with GPs, training providers and relevant professional organisations and aim to continually improve GPs’ skills and knowledge in detecting, diagnosing, managing and treating common mental health issues in general practice.

Associate Professor Morton Rawlin, chair of the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC), said that GPs were seeing more patients present with mental health concerns.

“There is greater awareness in the community about mental health and the stigma about talking to a doctor and getting help is gradually diminishing.

“The RACGP’s recent General Practice: Health of the Nation 2019 report found that 65% of surveyed GPs identified mental health is the most common issue they manage.”

Dr Rawlin said that GPs had a special role to play in helping people address mental health concerns

“GPs need to be able to detect and treat people with mental health problems and that includes patients at risk of suicide.

“An estimated 45% of Australians aged 16-85 years will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their lifetime and for most of them GPs are their first point of contact.

“It’s an incredibly complex task, particularly since every person who walks through their door is different. A GP needs to take account of acute physical and mental health issues as well as their personal circumstances and life history.”

Key aspects of the Standards include:

·         revision of the GP mental health training framework to better reflect the GPMHSC’s recommended training pathway for GPs

·         inclusion of the Advanced Health Skills Acknowledgment position statement to provide recognition of GPs who have undertaken training and education for additional skills in psychiatry and psychology

·         clear guidance on the mandatory requirement for genuine involvement of consumer and carer representatives, as well as GPs and mental health professionals in accredited skills training

·         a range of resources produced by the GPMHSC, as well as other references that will assist GPs in delivering the highest level of primary mental health care. The resources will also help training providers in delivering quality mental health education activities.

The GPMHSC is a collaboration including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, the Australian Psychological Society and carer and consumer representatives nominated by Mental Health Australia.

Details of the GP19 presentation where the Standards will be launched can be found here.

You can find the Standards here.

Media enquiries

Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact:

John Ronan

Senior Media Advisor