WPA & WONCA survey psychiatrists on key mental health competencies for primary care doctors

The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) has collaborated with the World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA) to survey the views of WPA member societies on a set of mental health competencies developed for primary care doctors.

With as many as one in four people in the world suffering from a mental health problem at any time, promotion, assessment and intervention of mental health issues cannot be done by any one profession alone. In many countries, primary care doctors are the first point of contact when it comes to the provision of mental health care. This is often because of their accessibility and acceptability to many people around the world. A patient can be taken care of by his or her primary care doctor in a holistic manner, with both physical and mental health considered together. Of course, delivery of quality primary mental health care to patients requires primary care doctors to be competent in this area.

With this in mind, WONCA developed a set of core competencies – or quality standards – for primary care doctors aimed at enhancing the quality of the mental healthcare they provide. The competencies also play an important role in enhancing collaboration and seamless interfacing between primary and secondary mental health care. For this reason, psychiatrists around the world were invited to share their views on the recently developed mental health competencies in an online survey.

Thirty-one WPA member societies, representing 65% of psychiatrists around the world, participated in the survey. All core competencies except one were considered as relevant and important for primary care doctors by at least 70% of the survey respondents. Many respondents indicated a deep interest in and commitment to working with primary care doctors to increase access to high-quality mental healthcare in their communities.

The WPA and WONCA have now started working together to support their member societies to collaborate in their countries. This will enable them to find locally relevant ways to support development of mental health core competencies in primary healthcare.

The survey has been published online in the BJPsych International as as DOI: https://doi.org/10.1192/bji.2020.32


Author: Roger Ng, WPA Secretary for Education

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