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PCNs to share costs of mental health workers with community trusts

by Awil Mohamoud
22 January 2021

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Primary care networks will split the cost of employing embedded mental health workers in their localities with community mental health trusts under the terms of the new contract.

The BMA and NHS England today unveiled details of this year’s updates to the GP contract, which states that the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) will continue to expand, and will cover funding for mental health workers from April 2021.

Under a local agreement, PCNs will only need to use 50% of the cost of hiring mental health workers from their ARRS funding, with community mental health trusts contributing the other half, the BMA said.

The mental health practitioner will, however, remain ‘wholly deployed to the PCN’, it added.

In the letter setting out the terms, the BMA said: ‘A joint funding model will bring together additional community mental health service funding with PCN funding.

‘From April 2021, every PCN will become entitled to a fully embedded full-time equivalent (FTE) mental health practitioner, employed and provided by the PCN’s local provider of community mental health services, as locally agreed.’

PCNs will be entitled to two whole time equivalent mental health workers in 2022/23, increasing to three by 2023/24 – subject to review, according to the letter, while networks with more than 100,000 patients will have their entitlements doubled.

‘The new obligation on mental health providers will be confirmed in the final version of the NHS Standard Contract’, the BMA said.

The BMA letter added: ‘In addition to the adult and older adults’ role, PCNs may also choose to embed a children and young people practitioner with the agreement of the mental health provider. This would be funded on the same joint basis.’

The mental health worker may be any registered clinical professional ‘operating at Agenda for Change Band 5’ – including a community psychiatric nurse, clinical psychologist, mental health occupational therapist or other clinical registered, according to the BMA.

The practitioner will play a combined consultation, advice, triage and liaison role, and will work with patients to support decisions about self-management, facilitate onward access to treatment services and provide psychological interventions where qualified to, the letter added.

The BMA said: ‘From April 2021 further ARRS roles will be added: (i) paramedics, as planned; (ii) advanced practitioners; and (iii) mental health practitioners, in a way that supports improved working with local mental health services.’