Family doctors with additional training in psychiatry should play a more important role in the care of patients facing a long wait for treatment at public clinics, says Dr Choi Kin, the newly elected president of the Hong Kong Medical Association. One of the priorities of his two-year term, he said, is to work with the Hospital Authority and develop collaboration between private and public mental health services. 'There should be more channels to encourage some public patients to opt for well-trained family doctors, so they can receive prompt treatment before their condition worsens,' said Choi, who was the association's president for two consecutive terms, from 2004 to 2008. Some psychiatric patients have had to wait months for a first consultation at Hospital Authority centres, and private specialist services are expensive. The authority plans to refer some patients to its outpatient or family clinics for assessment. But Choi said patients awaiting treatment could be better served if they consulted family doctors who had extra training. 'Doctors at public clinics are so busy, they can only afford a few minutes on each consultation,' Choi said. 'How can they provide good treatment to a mental patient?' He cited how patients at the East Kowloon public clinic are given a list of family doctors they can consult for treatment. But he said that as some psychiatrists have questioned whether family doctors are sufficiently experienced to treat mental patients, the names of only a small number of family doctors with the additional training in psychiatry are made available to patients.