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A Vision For Change

Mental Health in General Practice

The President's Desk

Welcome to the website of the Irish Association for Psychotherapy in Primary Care. The Association was established following the publication of the report of the 'Expert Group on Mental Health' entitled 'A Vision for Change'. This report was adopted in full as Government policy and accepted by each of the opposition parties.

Doctors and other professionals in the field of primary care have been aware for many years of the need for greater resources and services for patients presenting with psychological and emotional difficulties. According to recent research many GPs in Ireland are reluctant to refer patients to the psychiatric services. Medication, while often useful, can present particular difficulties. Patients frequently demand and are entitled to a greater range of treatment options than medication alone. Such treatment options include referral for psychotherapy which is currently available mainly on a private fee-paying basis and is not part of the GMS. Amnesty International has identified the availability of a range of treatment options as a human rights issue.

'A Vision for Change' makes it clear that psychotherapy has an important role to play within primary care. Confidence and familiarisation-building measures are needed between the various professions involved at primary care level especially medicine and psychotherapy, in order to ensure that the policy-objectives set out in 'A Vision for Change' are achieved.

The IAPPC represents the coming together for the first time of GPs and other professionals within primary care alongside some of the most highly trained psychotherapists who have a particular interest in this area. One of the main aims of the Association is to facilitate the necessary understanding and co-operation between medicine and psychotherapy.

The IAPPC accredits psychotherapists to the highest standards. It also evaluates and accredits specialised training courses in psychotherapy These standards are regularly reviewed by an advisory committee comprising senior GPs and other senior medical personnel within the Association.

The Association operates a country-wide referral service to psychotherapists which can be accessed by any member of a primary care team on a 7 day week, 24 hour basis..

The Association is developing protocols for co-operation between psychotherapy and other professions at primary care level. It is important that the professional collaboration is managed in a productive and efficient manner whether within the primary care team or within the wider primary care network.

The Association is also developing a research function in conjunction with some of the major universities. Many areas of research in the area of Primary Care were identified in 'A Vision for Change' and we hope to make substantial progress on these in the near future.

In my role as President of the Irish Association for Psychotherapy in Primary Care I hope to help bring about changes in public perception, attitudes and services for anybody suffering with a mental health problem. Patients suffering with emotional and psychological difficulties deserve our most up-to-date and complete response regardless of income. It behoves all of us who see the important contribution psychotherapy can make to primary care to take the necessary steps to bring about constructive change in line with what is now clear Government policy.

Prof Bill Shannon (The Graduate Medical School, University of Limerick)

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