Mental Health Practitioner

Mental Health Practitioner Explained

Mental health practitioners will always have their own individual skill sets and may be employed within primary care in several ways e.g.

  • Offering urgent mental health appointments that would normally be booked with the Duty GP if they cannot wait for a routine GP appointment;

  • Providing assessment, interventions, and support for people with mental health issues that can be managed within primary care, from initial presentation and ongoing.

A Journey Toward Improved Mental Health Reviews in Primary Care

Given its position as the first point of contact for individuals with mental health disorders Primary Care is central to mental health service provision. It plays a crucial role to play in ensuring continuity of care for individuals with mental health disorders and the gatekeeper to additional and more specialised mental health services and treatments.

With this in mind it is imperative that Primary Care functions effectively in the recognition and management of mental health disorders as well as engaging with patients in preventative interventions.

This pathway is a visual representation of how a Primary Care Practice  worked with a Student Nurse specialising in Mental healthcare, to assess, develop and redefine the processes and procedures within the Practice to radically improve the annual mental healthcare review process for its patients.

By putting patient need and feedback at the heart of the new process, and ensuring the whole Practice was appropriately trained to deliver it effectively, patients receive a holistic and valuable care experience which actively supports their continuing care.

Take a look and see if something similar could be put in place in your work environment.

The first of these models involves telephone calls to patients with mental health issues who are requesting an urgent appointment. Over the phone the practitioner assesses whether the patients’ needs to be offered a face to face appointment or whether they can be signposted to other services or resources. If necessary, the practitioner will see the patient face to face appointments to diagnose and make an initial treatment plans and refer onwards if needed.

This role provides immediate access to specialist advice / urgent help and relieves pressure on the GPs so they can focus on physical health issues.

The second model is based on ongoing support, where the mental health practitioner can offer support and interventions from the start of a mental health ‘episode’ and follow the patient through over a period of time until the immediate issue is resolved. This model appears to be more commonly used across Lancashire and South Cumbria with some GP’s appointing mental health practitioners independently and others utilising the PCN ARRS roles. There are no size fits all approach to this role as the population needs will differ dependent on geographical location, so it is very important to think about what support your population requires.

The importance of having a mental health professional (including Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) within each Primary Care Network has been recognised by including these roles within the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme from April 2021 whereby these posts can be funded from NHS England. The exact model will be determined following several pilots that are being run across England in 2020.

These roles are still in their infancy, and further guidance is expected about the requirements for claiming reimbursement.

Training is available, but further information is expected about the training that will be required and available to practitioners over the forthcoming months.