Increasing mental health support in GP practices

12 Jan 2022 03:41 PM

Funding to reach £40 million a year.

More mental health and wellbeing services will be provided within GP practices and community settings, backed by significant investment of up to £40 million a year.

Under the new system, patients who need mental health support will find a range of professionals available through their doctor’s surgery, rather than having to rely solely on their GP or a referral elsewhere. These could include mental health nurses, psychologists, peer support workers, occupational therapists, and link workers.

Funding of £1.5 million has already been made available from the Mental Health Recovery and Renewal Fund. This will increase annually to support implementation of the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Primary Care Services, reaching an expected £40 million per year by 2024-25. This could amount to more than £100 million by the end of this Parliament, substantially increasing the mental health workforce and transforming how support is delivered.

Minister for Mental Wellbeing Kevin Stewart said:

“Mental ill health is one of the major public health challenges in Scotland. We know the pandemic has had a significant impact, which is why mental health has remained a priority throughout our response to COVID-19.

“Around a third of all GP consultations now has a mental health component. But the range and complexity of issues requires a more varied and comprehensive response.

“This new multi-disciplinary model will deliver our commitment to provide 1,000 additional dedicated mental health staff by 2026, supporting communities to improve their mental health.”

Deputy chair of BMA Scotland’s GP Committee Dr Andrew Cowie said:

“Scotland's mental health has suffered significantly throughout the COVID19 pandemic, and we welcome the additional mental health staff that will allow for our patients to access support within their communities.

“GP practices are most people’s first point of contact and it is important that there is a range of help and services available there. This is a welcome initiative and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government to develop the scheme and ensure all patients in Scotland can access better mental health in their communities.” 

Local Planning Guidance, to support integration authorities and local partners to plan and implement the new services, will be published on the Scottish Government’s website this week.

Services will also link to community support such as addiction services, food banks and benefit support, through a link worker dedicated to each GP practice.

Background

The 2021-22 Programme for Government includes a commitment that “by 2026, every GP Practice will have access to a mental health and wellbeing service, funding 1,000 additional dedicated staff who can help grow community mental health resilience and direct social prescribing.”

The Scottish Government is already supporting Primary Care Mental Health Services through Action 15 of the Mental Health Strategy 2017-27 and the Primary Care Improvement Fund.  The development of these services will build on this work.

Funding of £1.5 million has been allocated this year from the Mental Health Recovery and Renewal fund to support the establishment of local planning groups, to implement services up to 2026. From Spring 2022 we will begin national implementation of this new model to expand mental health capacity within Primary Care settings, building on examples of good practice across the country.

As of 1 October 2021, 249.5 whole time equivalent (WTE) additional Mental Health Worker posts have been created in GP settings under Action 15. A further 216 WTE mental health workers have been recruited to date from the Primary Care Improvement Fund with a forecast of 298 by March 2022. As of March 2021, there were 218 Community Link Workers recruited through the PCIF, which issues funding to Health and Social Care Partnerships via Health Boards.