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GPs feel ill-equipped to support childhood mental health concerns – University of Reading

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GPs feel ill-equipped to support childhood mental health concerns

Release Date 13 September 2016


GPs have identified the key barriers they face in caring for children and young people in a new study carried out by the University of Reading, funded by a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Professorship awarded to Professor Cathy Creswell.

In the first study of its kind, academics reviewed the lack of training and awareness that primary care ‘gatekeepers’ such as doctors and paediatricians have themselves identified in diagnosing and treating mental health problems.

Dorieann O’Brien from the University of Reading said:

 “We know that the majority of mental health problems start in childhood and adolescence. As 75% of adults with a mental health disorder will have experienced the problem before the age of 24 years, it is crucial that GPs are well prepared to support children and young people to access support and treatment as quickly and appropriately as possible.

“The study shows that there are specific areas that need to be addressed to help doctors access evidence-based interventions as well as providing greater resources.”

The British Journal of General Practice paper systematically reviewed 43 international studies which asked primary care practitioners their views of the barriers to diagnosing and treating children and adolescents.

A lack of providers of specialist mental health services was cited as the most common barrier. Practitioners also clearly identified a lack of confidence in identification of childhood mental health problems and a continuing low priority given to mental health problems, both in training and in practice which they feel is resulting in a serious skill gap.

The paper is available at:

This research was funded by a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Professorship awarded to Professor Cathy Creswell at the University of Reading. The NIHR is funded by the Department of  Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research.

The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (

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