GP perceptions of community-based children’s mental health services in Pennine Lancashire: a qualitative study

Lambert, Alice.K, Doherty, Alison Jayne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3593-8069, Wilson, Neil orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2235-6086, Chauhan, Umesh orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0747-591X and Mahadevan, Dushyanthan (2020) GP perceptions of community-based children’s mental health services in Pennine Lancashire: a qualitative study. BJGP Open .

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Background: General Practitioner (GP) satisfaction with specialist Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is often reported as low in the United Kingdom and internationally.
Aim: To explore GP perceptions of local children’s mental health services and to understand their experiences of a novel GP-attached Primary Mental Health Worker (PMHW) service.
Design and Setting: Qualitative research involving GPs in Pennine Lancashire.
Method: Semi-structured face-to-face interviews of GPs (n=9) were carried out. Thematic analysis was undertaken.
Results: Themes identified included: 1. The role of the GP: Most GPs perceived their role to be signposting and referring patients with mental health issues to specialist services, rather than offering care directly. 2. Clarity on help available: GPs were unclear about specialist CAMHS referral criteria and alternative resources available. GPs experienced communication challenges with specialist CAMHS. 3. Getting advice and support: PMHWs enabled GPs to have informal discussions and to seek advice about children. Some GPs felt they could recognise problems earlier and were able to access help more quickly. 4. Development needs: Some GPs felt they required increased training in supporting children with mental health problems and identified a need for further collaboration with schools and specialist CAMHS.
Conclusion: The study identified challenges that GPs face with accessing and utilising specialist CAMHS. GPs who had PMHWs based in their practices expressed increased satisfaction with these services. GP-attached PMHWs can potentially reduce the challenges faced by GPs in primary care by offering timely and accessible advice and improving access to specialist CAMHS.

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