More Support For Mental Health In GP Practices

A service which offers more support for patients with mild to moderate mental health problems has begun to operate in several GP practices across Clackmannanshire and Falkirk West.

In a move which is seen as just what the doctor ordered, a group of community mental health nurses are now providing appointments in local GP surgeries, offering support and treatment for mental health problems commonly treated in the GP Practice.  This ensures that patients have ready access to professionals with specialist knowledge and skills without always having to seeing a GP.

Five primary care mental health nurses have been recruited initially through the Scottish Government’s Primary Care Transformation Fund and more will be employed over the coming months. They come from diverse backgrounds, including a mental health crisis centre in Lothian, a mental health resource centre in Falkirk, and one of the nurses has just moved back to Scotland after a year undertaking cognitive therapy training in East Sussex.

Varrie-Jane Muirhead, one of the newly appointed nurses, said: “The patient aspect of this new post is something we are all experienced in. The biggest challenge is raising the profile of the role we can play in primary care which gives patients with mild to moderate health problems easier access to services and allows support at an earlier stage.”

NHS Forth Valley Integrated Mental Health Team Manager, Julia Ferrari, added: “This service does not take away from what a GP can offer but it provides a supportive role to the doctors. A significant proportion of repeat visits to surgeries are linked to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and implementing a multidisciplinary approach like this gives GPs more time to focus on patients with perhaps more complicated medical issues.”

The nurses are also able to provide advice on how to improve physical and mental health, can review medication and offer psychological support. Those involved currently are at Bonnybank and Antonine in Bonnybridge, Viewpoint and Parkview in Stenhousemuir, Alva, Tillicoultry and Dollar, Hallpark in Clackmannanshire Community Healthcare Centre and Clackmannan and Kincardine Health Centre.

Patients will be informed about the new service through GP practice reception teams and, if they wish to take up the new service, can make an appointment direct to see one of the nurses.

The primary care mental health nurses are one of a number of developments to support the new national GP contract and the national mental health strategy which aims to see dedicated mental health professionals working in all GP practices throughout Scotland over the next five years.