Seeking mental health support from a GP: Summary report

Our work in Vassall Ward in 2015 revealed that most people would choose to visit their GP first if they needed help for a mental health concern. That's why we decided to look at people's experience of tlaking to their GP about mental health.
Photo of a GP Healthwatch Lambeth


Our work in Vassall Ward (2015) revealed that most people would choose to visit their GP first if they needed help for a mental health concern. What happens during and after a GP visit can affect a person’s mental health in terms of their treatment, recovery and engagement with services.

Therefore, in October 2016, we:

  • Spoke to 58 people about their experiences of talking to their GP about their mental health concerns
  • Visited all 48 GP websites to see what mental health information was available
  • Visited 47 GP practice waiting rooms to see the environment
  • Spoke to six GPs about their experiences of supporting people with mental health concerns. 

Key findings

  • GP Websites - 47 out of 48 GP Websites included some mental health information. 41 out of 48 websites included signposting to local mental health services. 13 out of 48 websites information was easy to find. However, 17 out of 48 had information located at the bottom of the page, making it harder to find.

  • GP Waiting Rooms - waiting rooms were friendly, attentive, neat and tidy. the rooms had plants and paintings. However,  2 out of 48 waiting rooms had mental health display. 

  • Patient Experience - Patients feeling heard and understood. Appreciate when the GP spends more time with them. However, some felt rushed, disregarded and not understood.


Recommendations were given as a result of the findings. GP surgeries should advertise patients’ rights in booking appointments such as the right to a double or an emergency appointment and the right to see a particular GP, to ensure patient’s get the most out of their visit. Increase GP training and understanding regarding mental health to assure consistency of GP skills in communication, knowledge and confidence to work effectively with mental health service users. Futhermore, Improve support to manage ‘the wait’ between GP and specialist services by developing and disseminating guidance around available support such as local mental health sanctuaries or peer mentoring schemes, which will aid GPs in building a care plan for service users in interim periods.


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