Key messages for Primary Care Networks and mental health

The King’s Fund and Centre for Mental Health published a paper on mental health and Primary Care Networks (PCNs) entitled Understanding the Opportunities.

It starts with ten key messages about mental health and primary care and goes on to list nine principles for primary care mental health services:

  • Meetings people’s needs in the right setting for them
  • Bridging the gap between primary and secondary care
  • Two way communication rather than rigid referral processes
  • Taking responsibility for the whole population
  • Supporting shared learning between professionals
  • Maintaining expert skills
  • Connecting with local resources and community assets
  • Valuing prevention and early intervention
  • Rapid access back to secondary care when necessary

Chapter 4 then looks at how PCNs can help in light of the contract and through partnership working. It notes that:

  • The detail about exactly what kinds of mental health practitioners will be covered and what requirements will be attached in the additional roles reimbursement scheme is still to be established and will be informed by the work of the 12 early implementer sites that are testing new service models as part of the implementation of the Community Mental Health Framework.
  • It will be important for mental health practitioners based in general practices to be part of a comprehensive offer, bringing together primary care mental health provision with local community mental health provision.
  • There is a need to make sure that these new roles are aligned with broader service redesign plans and that it will be important to take a whole system approach, thinking through how the available workforce can be used to best meet the mental health needs of the entire local population.
  • Funding for community link workers and pharmacists in each network could play an important role.
  • It may be easier for GP practices to work together.
  • There needs to be a closer dialogue between primary care and specialist mental health providers and PCNs create an important opportunity.
  • Some funding could be used to focus on collaboration with other system partners.

It also sets out some examples of innovative approaches.

Commenting on the report, primary care specialist Rob Day says:

This is an interesting proposal which highlights the evolving role that Primary Care Networks are set to have in the attempts to realise greater integration in the provision of health and social care. Whilst the specification that will underpin any funding that will be made available for mental health practitioners is yet to be determined, it will no doubt remain the case that PCNs (and the constituent practices of those PCNs) will retain the flexibility in deciding how these mental health services will be delivered within their geographical patch. In doing so, and to the extent that a robust offer of support can be established, it is certainly foreseeable that existing mental health providers will work closely with the PCNs in their localities and be sub contracted to deliver the new service."

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