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Guidance issued on mental health

NICE publishes diagnostic tool for GPs

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 26 May 2011

GPs are to be given greater support to help diagnose patients with common mental health disorders.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has introduced new guidance which brings together in one place its existing recommendations for common mental health disorders so that GPs can access information more easily.

Common mental health disorders affect one in six adults, and cost UK employers £25 billion each year through lost work days.

According to NICE, one in three GP consultations has a mental health element to it, and 90% of mental health disorders are treated in primary care.

Dr Barbara Compitus, a GP in Bristol who helped develop the guidance, said: “This new guideline is a really useful tool for GPs as it will enable us to access all the information we need in a one-stop shop.”

Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), agreed: “GPs can see patients with two, three or four different conditions and while we have a myriad of guidance, it can be difficult to know where to start.

“The new NICE guidance is really helpful as it lists the various common mental health disorders all on one page for easy reference and brings together existing guidelines.”

The latest guidance has a particular focus on anxiety disorders. Recognition is said to be ‘particularly poor’ in primary care and only a small minority of people experiencing anxiety disorders ever receive treatment.

NICE recommends that GPs be alert to patients who present with possible anxiety disorders, particularly if they have a past history of an anxiety disorder, possible physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder or have experienced a recent traumatic event.

GPs should consider asking the patient about their feelings of anxiety and their ability to stop or control worry, using the 2-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD-2).

A score of three or more on the GAD-2 scale indicates that they may have an anxiety disorder and should be assessed.

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