An innovative approach to mental health support

27 March 2014
By James Morris MP

As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, I am always pleased to hear about promising new ways of helping people who have previously missed out on effective treatment and support.

A group of GPs in the City of London and Hackney have taken an innovative response to the needs of people whose mental health problems are more complex than their doctor can manage alone yet who don’t qualify for specialist services. The Primary Care Psychotherapy Consultation Service (PCPCS) is run by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. It offers hope to people who would otherwise get bounced around the NHS without adequate care and support, such as people with medically unexplained symptoms, those with personality disorder and those with complex mental health problems. This ground-breaking service offers a range of therapies, close to people’s homes, often in their own GP surgeries, not a one-size-fits-all service in a remote clinic.

Centre for Mental Health has evaluated the PCPCS and shown that it has changed people’s lives. And it shows that the service offers good value for public money – not just by improving the health of people with complex needs but by taking pressure off primary care services and local hospitals.

Many of the patients supported by the PCPCS have multiple mental and physical health problems at the same time, coupled in some cases with a history of social difficulties, isolation, neglect and trauma. Because of this complexity, patients supported by the PCPCS do not fit neatly into any single diagnostic category and by the same token their needs do not map readily on to existing structures of service provision. They are unlikely to be well supported by local IAPT services, which are mainly set up to deal with relatively straightforward cases of anxiety and depression.

The Centre’s report shows that by offering a broad range of therapies, tailored to each person, and by advising GPs on how to manage complexity, services like the PCPCS can help to extend psychological therapy provision in the NHS and improve mental health support in GP surgeries.

I am delighted to see that the NHS is taking an innovative approach to improving mental health support, achieving better care cost-effectively, and making a real difference to people’s lives. The PCPCS demonstrates to the whole system what can be achieved by opening up the NHS to high quality psychological support to people who too often get nothing. I hope it will inspire many more NHS commissioners to innovate locally and improve mental health care for all who need it.

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