This interesting article by Dr Mark Griffiths (Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University) highlights the challenge of getting GPs to see gambling problems as a primary reason for referral and a valid treatment option and reports that “very few GPs could probably treat a problem gambler”.
We’re living in a time where the family Doctor relationship is becoming a rarity (and while there is ‘trust’ a GP is still a stranger that only offers office visits) but it continues to amaze me that so many experts think the opportunity in the world of General Practice is just about having GPs ask more questions of their Patients and having GPs do more in-depth training on specific topics. I think the conclusions being reached by this subject expert in this post are particularly revealing because it’s clearly identified that:
- Patients can and will reveal information about their gambling problem if they are asked to by a survey in a waiting room.
- Most GPs aren’t screening for gambling problems.
- Most GPs couldn’t properly treat a problem gambler even if the Patient reported gambling as their reason for making the appointment.
Instead of having busy GPs blaming Patients for wasting their time or doing more to take GPs away from their Patients to do more specialist training or in projects that will increase Patient anxiety levels it’s time to flip the model:
- Wherever possible let Patients give their own history, answer all the questions that we’d like them asked in their own time in a place they feel most comfortable and enable this to be done using their mobile phone.
- Let senior Doctors triage the Patients
- Refer Patients directly to the Doctors who we know have the skill sets and experience to best help them with their needs (in this case a Patient who revealed gambling problems might get an appointment with a GP or Counsellor who has specific training in this field and perhaps even direct experience of a gambling problem).
Perhaps once this is all in place the NHS can then focus more on what it’s doing with the information Patients are sharing with their Doctor because at the moment their sterling efforts to share it with law enforcement agencies and powerful US advertising companies is completely undermining the trust Patients have.