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NHS to ‘fully fund’ 3,000 mental health workers in practices

NHS England will fully fund 3,000 mental health therapists to work in general practice by 2021, as part of a range of measures announced by NHS England today.

It said that the programme will result on average in a full-time therapist for every two to three typical sized GP practices.

The General Practice Forward View said the move should help individuals to seek help at an early stage, noting that general practice staff have a role to play in recognising when early referral or treatment may be indicated for someone at risk of falling out of work.

It also said that GPs ’will have greater access to treatment pathways, especially for conditions that have an impact on the ability to work for large numbers of people, such as mental health conditions’. 

The document said that a recruitment programme to recruit 5,000 non-GP staff to general practice would include ’3,000 new fully funded practice-based mental health therapists’. 

However, it is unclear where the funding will be coming from.

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The Forward View suggests that it may come from the ‘Better Care Fund’, which is a pooled budget with funding from CCGs, NHS England and local authorities designed to integrate health and social care. 

It says: ’From April 2016, CCGs, local authorities and NHS England will be able to pool budgets to jointly commission expanded services, including: additional nurses in GP settings to provide a coordination role for patients with long-term conditions; GPs providing services in care and nursing home settings; providing a mental health professional in a GP setting; and hosting a social worker in a GP surgery.’

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, called for a mental health worker in every practice in an opinion piece for Pulse.

She wrote: ’Mental health now accounts for just under a quarter of the health problems that our patients present with. But we simply do not have the resources to provide the best care.

’This is why we’re calling for every GP practice to have access to a mental health worker. GPs urgently need better support.’

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