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Mind  |  Membership News

Issue 07  |  Spring 2012

Your GP’s obligations

What’s the alternative?

“I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.” Hippocratic oath – modern version

You may worry that opening up to your GP will land you on medication or in a psychiatrist’s office. Not necessarily. Your GP will recommend what he or she thinks is best for you, but remember that you don’t have to accept a treatment if you don’t want to. And depending on your problem, your GP may be able to offer a range of alternative treatment options.

Doctors don’t necessarily take the Hippocratic oath these days. But in order to practice, all doctors must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC), which has its own code of conduct. According to this code, you can expect your GP to: • make your care their first concern • protect and promote your health • provide a good standard of practice and care • treat you as an individual and respect your dignity • work in partnership with you – listen to you and respond to your concerns and preferences • be honest and open and act with integrity – never discriminate unfairly against you • never abuse your trust • respect your right to confidentiality – medical information often needs to be shared between different members of a team caring for you, but your GP has a duty to maintain confidentiality except when failure to share information could cause harm to you or other people or there is a legal reason

You can find the booklet Good Medical Practice, the core ethical guide to medical practice, on the GMC website at www.gmc–

Exercise therapy, green therapy, counselling, group therapy, CBT or guided self–help might be right for you, and more holistic approaches are becoming available all the time. It’s always worth checking whether these could work for you.

Your GP has a duty to give you the highest standard of care possible. How do you know if that’s what you’re getting? It can be difficult to find out about care quality as many of the factors that might be important to you can’t be measured. For example, experience alone will tell you whether the receptionist is going to smile at you! But there are certain standards you can check and some of these relate specifically to mental health. To find out how your GP practice is faring on various markers of quality, check out the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) website at

One London GP, Dr Saul, refers patients in emotional distress to a horticultural therapy programme that’s linked to his practice. The service, PoLLen, is run from the Bromley–by–Bow centre in London. Partly funded by Ecominds, so far over 100 referrals have been made for gardening sessions, food growing, flower arranging and art and design.

Some performance results are available on the NHS Choices website too, along with some comments and recommendations from other patients. Remember that this takes into account all the staff at a practice and you can’t usually check up on an individual GP.

Dr Saul says, “PoLLen’s beauty is that it’s not threatening to its clients. When you have low self–esteem and low motivation, it can be very intimidating to engage in something new. This is a kind of ‘group therapy’, but it does not expect or demand verbal participation. So it allows true reflection, giving clients the space and time (and company) to make talking happen naturally and safely.”

Being ‘sectioned’ means being held in a psychiatric hospital or ward, whether you want to or not. It only happens if there’s a risk to your own health or safety or to other people’s. Your GP alone cannot section you.

For more information about PoLLen check out

• a doctor who has received special training

Our website has details of other Ecominds funded projects

Tip If you want to see a specialist or try a particular treatment – say so. Your GP may well agree. And if they don’t, they should be able to explain why it’s not right for you. Never leave an appointment with unasked questions. 10

Quality care

Can my GP section me?

Three people must agree that being detained is right for you: • the Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) or nearest relative as specified by the Mental Health Act 1993 • a registered medical practitioner It’s best if one of the professionals knows you, so your GP may fulfil one of these roles.

For more information on what it means to be sectioned and what you can do if you don’t agree, see Mind Rights Guide 1: Civil admission to hospital, which is available on our website

the issue

What to expect from your GP

Not happy? How to complain Remember that you can switch GPs at any time, either to another doctor in the same practice or to another surgery altogether. You don’t have to explain why. If you’re still unhappy with your care, you can complain. Every practice must have a clear, written complaints procedure and you can get a copy from the receptionist. The next places to turn are: • your local PCT - contact details are available from the NHS Choices website or your GP surgery • your local Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) - • the Independent Complaints and Advocacy Service (ICAS) - phone numbers are available on the NHS Choices website or from your GP surgery

More information We have a range of information that may answer any more questions you have. Take a look at the following booklets: • Rights guide 1: civil admission to hospital • Rights guide 3: consent to medical treatment • The Mental Health Act 1983: an outline guide • Legal Briefing: how to complain health and social care

These are available at or by calling 0844 448 4448. For legal queries, you can contact our legal advice service on 0300 466 6463 or at We also have online legal questions at You may also find the NICE Guideline Common mental health disorders: Identification and pathways to care helpful. You can download it from the NICE website, simply search for CG123 on For other mental health enquiries call the Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393 11

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