NHS England is asking GP practices to house mental health therapists within their practice premises.
New guidance, released today, says practices should offer currently unused space to therapists employed by the IAPT service, or share space they are using for other clinical services with IAPT.
This forms part of the GP Forward View pledge for 3,000 additional mental health therapists to work in general practice by 2021 and comes as GPs are reporting that nearly half of all GP consultations now include a mental health issue.
NHS England said the therapists could then take referrals from the practice’s GPs and other clinical staff, as well as practice patients who self-refer themselves to the IAPT service.
It added that practices should treat the therapists as ‘full members of the primary healthcare team’ by allowing them to attend practice meetings.
Outlining technical options for how GP practices could allow IAPT to use their premises, NHS England said this could include offering up space which is already paid for by the NHS, agreeing with CCGs to offer up space with reimbursement under the Premises Cost Directions, or charging rent from IAPT services on a commercial basis.
NHS England’s national director for mental health Claire Murdoch said: ‘We are on track to deliver 3,000 therapists in primary care, with over 800 in surgeries at the end of last year and this handy guidance should convince those practices that are yet to take the plunge of the benefits.’
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Having ready access to specially-trained mental health therapists in primary care, who are integrated into the general practice team, has the power to radically change how we’re able to deliver care to our patients, and hopefully improve outcomes for patients with mental health conditions.’
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Whilst this initiative to base these staff within the surgery building is very welcome, we need to ensure recurrent new funding to support this expansion in the workforce is in place, but also that sufficient therapists are being trained to avoid simply taking these skilled professionals from existing overstretched IAPT services.’
This comes after Pulse revealed last year that despite the promise of 3,000 dedicated therapists working in practices, they would not actually be directly employed by GPs and only some of the new practitioners would work in practices.
This story first appeared on our sister publication Pulse.