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GPs doing very best for new mothers but need more time and resources, says RCGP

“But it’s incredibly hard for GPs to explore all the physical and psychological factors affecting our patients’ health within the time constraints of the consultation as it stands. We need these checks to be much longer as standard, so that we are able to give the same attention to the new mother as we do to the baby – but this needs more resources for our service, and more GPs.

“Unfortunately, offering longer appointments means offering fewer appointments, and our patients are already waiting longer than they should be for routine appointments. We need the pledges made in NHS England’s GP Forward View, including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice, and 5,000 more GPs by 2020, to be implemented as a matter of urgency in order to address this.

“What isn’t helpful is using indiscriminate surveys as a stick with which to beat hard working GPs – particularly as people are more likely to report a negative experience than a positive one - when we are doing our very best for patients under such intense resource and workforce pressures.

“It’s actually very encouraging that nearly 80% of new mothers were asked about their emotional wellbeing at the six-week check – but perinatal mental health conditions are incredibly complex, and in many cases we have no choice but to rely on women to disclose their problems.

“We know this takes courage, but new mothers should not put off raising any issue with their GP because they think any adverse feelings they are having after pregnancy are ‘normal’, or because they are worried about the consequences of doing so. We’d like to reassure all our patients that GPs are highly trained to have confidential, non-judgmental conversations about all health issues, including mental wellbeing, and any concerns they share with us will be taken seriously.

“Perinatal mental health is a clinical priority for the College, and we have developed a whole range of resources to support GPs and our teams to deliver the best possible mental health care for our patients during and after pregnancy.”



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