Being bothered about Billy

In her 2012 James Mackenzie Lecture to the Royal College of General Practitioners Annual General Meeting, the late Professor Helen Lester encouraged GPs to make people with serious mental illness their core business by not just screening but intervening.

Watch the video of the lecture below in which Professor Lester asserts that people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other serious mental illnesses are still getting an unfair deal from their healthcare – yet subtle changes in the attitudes and actions of health professionals could significantly improve the quality, and even the length, of their lives.

Professor Lester said that GP consultations were not always long enough to address the myriad of physical, mental and social issues, and that despite a greater susceptibility to cardiovascular disease, many people with serious mental illness were missing out on simple tests such as blood pressure checks because of the way in which GP surgeries are run and the stigmatising views some GPs hold about people with serious mental illness.

She suggested that GPs and other health professionals could implement a series of simple measures to make their surgeries more welcoming and improve the experience of the consultation.

These could include:

  • red flagging notes for receptionists enabling patients with serious mental illness to book appointments with a GP who already knows them and save them from having to repeat their medical history
  • having a designated waiting area outside the GP’s surgery, away from what can often be noisy waiting rooms
  • giving patients with psychosis longer appointments or the last appointment of the day, and
  • encouraging GPs to examine their own attitudes towards people with serious mental illness to ensure they always go that extra mile.