The First Contact Mental Health Practitioners act as initial points of contact for adults who are experiencing mental health illnesses.
The scheme, funded and provided in partnership between NHS Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB), Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), is aimed at reducing the wait, or even need, to see a GP.
The new approach seeks to increase and speed up access to mental health support and to strengthen relationships across primary care, secondary care, and voluntary and community sector colleagues, through the sharing of knowledge and enhanced understanding of mental health illnesses and the support available.
Peter Billingsley, GP and clinical lead for vulnerable people at the ICB said: "The demand on mental health services has increased significantly and many people are contacting their GP with mental health concerns including anxiety, low mood and depression. We want to enable people to get help and support quickly and as close to home as possible.
The experienced practitioners work as part of the primary care team and other services, supporting practices to assess people who contact them with mental health-related illnesses, ensuring they receive proactive, effective, and timely care as well as additional signposting advice and information if needed.
Janet, First Contact Mental Practitioner in Hambleton said: "The post, and how I have developed the local post and my input has been so well received. I use all my years of clinical experience to determine the next steps needed and my knowledge of the local area and services. I never stop searching for options, resources, and services for patients and this is key to being up-to-date and providing support to meet local needs."
Amy, First Contact Mental Health Practitioner, Richmondshire said: "We are getting very positive feedback from patients about how quickly they have been able to access help and the fact that they have been able to do so within their own GP practice. Patients are given the choice of either telephone or face-to-face appointments which means people can access the service in a way that they choose."
A local Mental Health Survivor said: "You will never know how much you have helped me. To get that call and an offer to be seen so quickly was amazing. I have had help through veterans' services but finding out that this help is available at my own GP blew me away. I feel as though it saved my life."
Lisa, Mental Health Survivor said: "I left the appointment feeling way better than when I went in. I have since had a couple more appointments which have revealed more about how I can self-manage, and I am at liberty to phone up and request another appointment as and when I require. Knowing this wonderful person is there if needed is great. I feel like responsibility for looking after my own mental health and wellbeing has been returned to me." The move is aligned to the North Yorkshire and York Community Mental Health Transformation Programme, which aims to develop and transform local community mental health support to give people greater choice and control over their care and support them to live well in their communities.
David Kerr, Community Mental Health Transformation Programme and Delivery Lead for North Yorkshire and York said: “These roles have strengthened local mental health provision supporting people to get the help they need closer to home and as quickly as possible.
The First Contact Mental Health Practitioner service for adults is not yet available at all practices but it is being rolled out as quickly as possible. A referral from a GP is not required and when calling the practice for an appointment the reception staff will be able to book either a face-to-face or telephone appointment with the practitioner.