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Doctors ask for more help from employers over mental health

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New research from Aviva UK Health reveals that better support services and a change in patient attitude are essential if the provision of care for mental health patients is to be improved.

Aviva's 2011 Health of the Nation research reveals that while the quality of care for patients with physical conditions such as cancer and heart disease is felt to have improved in recent years, nearly three in five (58%) GPs feel that the quality of care provided by the NHS for mental health issues is poor.

This demonstrates that a focused approach from the Government on healthcare issues can pay dividends. With nearly half (45%) of GPs saying that stress and mental health conditions will be the biggest health issues that they'll treat in 2011, now's the time for the spotlight to be turned to mental health.

Nearly two out of five GPs (38%) feel that mental health is a social issue rather than medical. The same amount say they find it hard to treat patients with mental health conditions as they can't treat the root cause of the problem. It's therefore not surprising that over half (55%) of GPs feel that they need more support from employers to help prevent workplace stress.

Doug Wright, head of clinical development at Aviva UK Health, said: "Our research re-emphasises that there are two issues to overcome to help improve the quality of care available to patients with mental health conditions.

Firstly, there's a need for increased investment into mental health support services. The condition is complex and GPs need to be able to tailor their support to suit their patient's exact needs.

"There's also a need for improved education about mental health issues - in terms of prevention, recognition of symptoms and acceptance of the illness. Employers have a key role to play in this process. It's important that line managers receive the appropriate training to help them recognise the signs of stress and put their employees in touch with the right support services at the right time. People need to be confident that they can talk about mental health without embarrassment or fear.

"It's reassuring to see that the Government's current mental health strategy recognises these issues and is focusing on the areas GPs feel will best improve patient care." Aviva's bi-annual Health of the Nation study canvassed the views of over 200 GPs on issues relating to their working practice and patient care.