Viewpoint - Access to psychotherapy services

GP consortia will be empowered to remove local waiting lists, say Carmen Joanne Ablack and Janet Weisz.

Janet Weisz: GPs can draw on UKCP practitioners’ expertise (Authors' image)
Janet Weisz: GPs can draw on UKCP practitioners’ expertise (Authors' image)

Many UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) members work in GP surgeries or other primary care settings.

In schemes and contracts agreed now and in future with GP consortia and practices, UKCP members believe it is vital for patients to have clear and easy access to psychotherapy, psychotherapy services and psychotherapy assessments.

The UKCP accredits and regulates psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors who are recognised as being qualified to some of the highest standards both here and in Europe.

GP consortia are in a unique position to reduce or remove psychotherapy waiting lists, and can achieve this by commissioning mixed models involving drop-in, initial and arranged-appointment services.

Ascertaining needs
The UKCP generally recommends assessment of patients and clients in primary care, to ascertain their needs and the best professional 'fit' for them, should take place over two sessions. The aim is to make psychotherapy referrals as effective as possible in terms of outcomes.

At practice level, GPs can draw on UKCP-registered practitioners' expertise, as they are trained in assessing clients for suitability of therapeutic approach, treatment duration, severity of need and onward referral.

Surgery-based services and planned, geographical outreach to UKCP-registered private practitioners and accredited organisations (some providing clinical services) in the locality are good models for improving GP practice-based and consortia-commissioned psychotherapy provision.

Regularity of contact, relationship building and ease of communication between therapist, GP and the wider practice team will, in our view, be vital for meeting the needs of the population in straitened times.

We welcome enquiries from GP consortia and practices about these and other ways our members are developing services. The UKCP also includes member organisations with clinical services attached to their training provision as well as graduate programmes.

Consortia will find plenty of scope for regular updating and mapping of psychotherapy services by asking GP practices, local psychotherapy practitioners and UKCP member organisations for information. With this data, consortia can develop an integrated picture of local provision and need.

Involving service users
One key benefit that could emerge is avoidance of a stepped-care system by directly referring patients from the surgery to the most appropriate psychotherapy service.

Carmen Joanne Ablack: Flexible approach

We recommend involving service users in any review of local services. Patient feedback is important to the psychotherapeutic practitioners' continuing professional development and in helping them meet the needs of patients.

The UKCP believes this is part of the flexibility of approach that GP consortia want to meet the local population's needs to the best of our respective abilities.

  • Carmen Joanne Ablack chairs the UKCP psychotherapists in the workplace committee and is editor of its professional occupational standards; Janet Weisz chairs the UKCP's colleges and faculties committee

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