Clinical psychologists can meet the needs of people who otherwise get little or no help from the NHS, says a report published today by Centre for Mental Health and the British Psychological Society.
Clinical psychology in primary care, by Dr Graham Durcan, explores real life examples of psychologists working in GP surgeries and communities. It finds that they help people the NHS often struggles to support and who otherwise get little or no effective treatment for their mental health.
The report explores two different ways of providing psychology in primary care. In one model, psychologists (working in GP surgeries in Catterick, Ludlow and Telford) offer short appointments to anyone without the need for a referral. In the other, a specialist service in Bradford supports people with complex physical and mental health difficulties, working alongside GPs to provide long-term psychological support.
The report also looks at Project Future, a community psychology service working with young people in Haringey. All help to fill gaps in existing health services, providing accessible and effective mental health help in places people feel safe and close to home.
Clinical psychology in primary care finds that offering psychological support in communities has both therapeutic and financial benefits. They meet the needs of people who for too long have missed out on effective help.
It says that clinical psychology should be more routinely available in primary care. From next year, Primary Care Networks will be able use additional funding to employ mental health workers. This will be an important opportunity to bring more psychology expertise into GP surgeries and communities as part of the implementation of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: “This report shows that bringing clinical psychology into the heart of communities can reach people whose needs have been ignored or poorly met for many years. This has never been more important. As more of us experience poor mental health as a result of the pandemic, we must take steps now to help people quickly and effectively. Clinical psychologists offer a distinctive approach that can make a big difference in primary care. We hope more local areas will invest in the kind of services we have described in this report for the long-term.”
Dr Esther Cohen-Tovee, chair of the BPS Division of Clinical Psychology, said: “It’s so important that people who need support for their mental health can get the right help in the right place at the right time. Bringing clinical psychologists to work alongside GPs in local community settings will open up new avenues for those looking for psychological support, and enable people to get help which meets their needs earlier.
“This will improve support and outcomes for individuals and for families, and could also alleviate pressure on GPs. The BPS welcomes the move to encourage Primary Care Networks to employ mental health workers and looks forward to working with partners in the NHS to expand these new ways of working.”