RCGP Scotland calls on political parties to revolutionise mental health support for patients and frontline healthcare workers

Dr Chris Williams and Dr David Shackles, Joint Chairs of the Royal College of General Practitioners (Scotland) [RCGP Scotland], have today launched the College's 2021 Scottish Parliamentary Election manifesto. It sets out the priorities for general practice in Scotland over the next 5 years.

RCGP Scotland's manifesto (594 KB PDF) urges political parties to commit to increasing the number of mental health clinicians working within GP practices. It also calls on parties to protect the mental health and wellbeing of frontline staff by safeguarding funding for a dedicated mental health service for health and social care workers.

A recent survey of GPs in Scotland has revealed that 94% of respondents believe that the number of patients presenting to general practice with mental health and wellbeing concerns has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 71% of respondents reported that such presentations have increased "a lot" during this period. Despite these worrying increases, 80% of respondents reported that the surgery that they work in currently does not have enough mental health workers to effectively treat patients presenting with mental health and wellbeing concerns.

When considering their own mental health, 57% of respondents reported that working in general practice during COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health and wellbeing.

Commenting on the results of the survey and the launch of the election manifesto, Dr David Shackles, Joint Chair of RCGP Scotland said:

"The Coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly impacted on the mental health of patients for a whole host of reasons and today's survey results are therefore unfortunately unsurprising.

This year's Scottish Parliamentary elections are being held at a critical time for our health and social care service. While work is currently underway to explore improvements to primary care mental health services, we need to ensure that the next Scottish Government prioritises this work to enable patients to access the mental health support that they require, when they require it, in an environment that they know and trust.

General practice sits at the frontline of our health service and for the overwhelming majority of patients is their first point of contact with the NHS. We need to ensure that more mental health clinicians can be trained and brought into GP practices to provide vital support for patients in their own communities. Following the Coronavirus pandemic, we have a real opportunity to revolutionise the mental health care that patients receive and we call on all candidates to support this effort by committing to #RenewGP."

Expanding on the need for safeguarded funding for a dedicated mental health service for health and social care staff, Dr Chris Williams, Joint Chair of RCGP Scotland added:

"For many years, we have been calling for the implementation of a dedicated mental health and wellbeing service for GPs. This is in recognition of the fact that clinicians are less likely than others to seek the mental health support that they require due to confidentiality and stigma concerns. We were therefore delighted to recently welcome the launch of the Workforce Specialist Service in Scotland which will provide mental health support to those working within health and social care who would otherwise have experienced barriers in accessing this support. Today's survey results highlight that such a service has never been more needed.

As we look towards the coming years, it is vital that the lessons of the pandemic are learned and the mental health and wellbeing of our dedicated frontline staff is never again taken for granted. This is why we are calling on political parties to commit to safeguarding funding for the dedicated mental health service over the coming years to ensure that our health and social care workforce can access the support that they require when they need it most. We would also like to see this service regularly monitored and evaluated to ensure that it meets the mental health needs of our health and social care staff."

Alongside calls for increased mental health support for patients and health and social care workers, other 'asks' in the manifesto include:

  • Action to tackle health inequalities through the co-location of money advice services within GP practices and the rollout of Community Links Workers to all practices in Scotland, prioritising initially those practices serving populations with the highest levels of deprivation.
  • Build a sufficient GP workforce to ensure that GPs and members of the wider multidisciplinary team can offer 15-minute appointments as standard to patients, with an appropriate mix of face-to-face, phone and virtual consultations.
  • Revolutionise the clinical and patient experience by urgently implementing digital solutions such as e-prescribing.
  • Urgent action, underpinned by a clear strategy, to ensure that NHS Scotland can achieve its target of net-zero carbon emissions before 2045.

Further information

(For media only)

RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7633/7494/7574
Out of hours: 020 3188 7659

Notes to editor

RCGP Scotland represents a network of around 5,000 doctors in Scotland aiming to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standard of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on resources, education, training, research and clinical standards. 

RCGP Scotland issued a survey for GPs which was in field from 5 February – 1 March 2021. The survey received 157 responses in total.

RCGP Scotland's 2021 Scottish Parliamentary Election Manifesto (594 KB PDF)

Media requests to Lizzie Edwards, Policy and Campaigns Manager. Tel: 07787 216842 lizzie.edwards@rcgp.org.uk