NHS England plan to integrate physical and mental health could ease pressure on GPs

Plans to overhaul mental health services over the next five years will help 'relieve pressure on general practice' and see millions invested to integrate physical and mental health services, NHS England has said.

NHS: integration could ease pressure on GPs (Photo: iStock)
NHS: integration could ease pressure on GPs (Photo: iStock)

NHS England has set out its roadmap for achieving recommendations made in its Five Year Forward View for Mental Health to improve mental health care by 2020/21.

It has pledged an additional £1bn a year in funding to meet these aims, in addition to the cumulative £1.4bn already committed to CCGs for children, young people and perinatal care.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker warned that general practice must receive its share of the funding to help best meet patients’ needs.

Out of this funding, £72m will be invested to better integrate physical and mental health services.

This will include expanding psychological therapies in up to a third of all CCGs through building integrated improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT) services, where patients can receive treatment for both mental health and long-term physical health conditions.

A further £365m will be allocated to specialist perinatal mental health services over the next five years.

The funding will also help deliver physical health checks for people with severe mental illness (SMI), enabling CCGs to offer physical care interventions to cover 30% of people identified with SMI on GP registers in 2017/18 and 60% from the following year, it said.

Mental health care

Overall, the plans aim to create an expansion in access to mental health care by 2020/21 sufficient to meet the needs of 35% of those with diagnosable mental health conditions.

NHS England said it expects that savings will also ‘accrue from individuals engaged in treatment requiring fewer GP consultations, hospital admissions and in-patient treatment in relation to common mental health problems’.

Dr Baker said: ‘It’s a priority for the college that mental health is given the same parity of esteem as physical health, and this money, and plans if implemented efficiently, announced by NHS England today are certainly a step in the right direction toward achieving this.

‘What is essential is that general practice is recognised. GPs and our teams are often the first port of call for patients with mental health problems, and it is vital we have access to the appropriate resources and services.

‘NHS England’s GP Forward View included a pledge to ensure every GP practice has access to mental health workers, who can deliver services and treatments that can really benefit our patients, and we would like to see this implemented as a matter of urgency.

‘The college will be holding NHS England to account on this, and the other pledges in the GP Forward View, to ensure that they are implemented in the best interests of general practice and our patients.’

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