Mental health cutbacks force GPs to treat most psychological issues

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General Practitioners are increasingly treating people with serious psychological or psychiatric problems themselves. This is because referral to specialist care often does not work or is very difficult after the budget cuts for mental health.

This is according to a poll by the National Association of General Practitioners among almost 1,900 GP's, NOS reports. These doctors find this a very worrying development. According to the poll, 80 percent of GP's had more people come in who require specialized mental health care last year. Two thirds of the doctors indicated that the complexity of mental illness increased in the general practice.

The intention is that GP's should treat slight mental problems themselves more often, so that people are not referred to specialist care institutions unnecessarily. According to the poll, this generally works as almost all GP's have support for mental health care in their practice.

But 51 percent of the doctors indicated that they run into problems when they have to refer complex patients who really need specialist care. There are long waiting lists for specialist mental health institutions and other providers, such as independent psychiatrists. 40 percent of the GP's say that people who need care immediately, often haven have to wait 8 weeks. The GP's have to treat them in this period, which they call irresponsible. A study done by Abvakabo FNV in October last year also revealed that the waiting lists at mental health institutions have grown significantly since the cutbacks in 2012.

Another problem raised in the poll is the collaboration between institutions in specialist mental health care. Doctors think that the transfer of patients and information exchange should be improved, to prevent people falling through the cracks. A recent example of someone in desperate need of specialized mental health care, who due to a yet unexplained error did not receive it, is Bart van U. - the current suspect in the murder of former Health Minister Els Borst. Despite serious concerns about Van U.’s condition, he never received treatment. Neither in a criminal law context or in a civil context.

GGZ Netherlands acknowledges that the waiting times has increased in many places. The number of specialist mental health care locations was reduced in the expectation that more people would be treated by neighborhood teams or the so-called first line - independent psychologists and psychiatrists and general practitioners. But the influx of people needing specialized institutions has yet to decrease, which is why the waiting times are increasing. GGZ Netherlands also says that health insurers buy fewer spots than necessary. Earlier this year it was reported that hundreds of psychiatrists and psychotherapists are refusing to sign contracts with health insurance providers because of their alleged interference with practices and treatment.


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