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PCNs urged to hire mental health specialists and physios in Covid aftermath



GP practices must ‘seize the opportunity’ to hire mental health specialists to their Primary Care Networks using additional roles funding, according to the Centre for Mental Health and the King’s Fund.

A report, co-authored by the charity and health think-tank, said this comes amid a ‘rising tide of poor mental health as a result of the pandemic’.

The report argued this comes as ‘current provision of mental health support in general practice is variable and often inadequate’.

King’s Fund senior fellow Beccy Baird said: ‘Large numbers of people who need mental health support fall into the gaps between services. This was already the case before Covid-19, and the pandemic now risks exacerbating the problem.

‘We need investment in new services that completely redesign the interface between primary care and specialist mental health services, providing flexible support rather than rigid referral criteria.’

Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: ‘Primary Care Networks can create a new start for mental health in primary care by acknowledging that they cannot fulfil their core roles without it… We are already seeing a rising tide of poor mental health as a result of the pandemic. This is unlikely to subside any time soon and may rise again this winter.’

Meanwhile, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is urging PCNs to use the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) to hire first-contact physiotherapists ‘to help tackle a backlog of MSK appointments as lockdown eases’.

The society’s head of FCP implementation Larry Koyama said: ‘FCPs are proven to deliver excellent patient care while easing pressures on GPs and reducing onward referrals for tests, scans and secondary care.

‘That’s why it is now more crucial than ever for PCNs to take up funding for these roles as Covid-19, months of lockdown and reduced activity levels will have had a serious deconditioning effect on millions of people.’