Improving access to primary care mental health services for under-served groups

04 Nov 2013

A study by researchers from the universities of Liverpool and Manchester has identified ways to improve how older people and ethnic minority populations access mental health care services.

As part of the `Improving Access to Mental Health in Primary Care’ programme, researchers sought to identify why two underserved groups in four areas of Liverpool and Manchester had not been using mental health services that were available and what measure could address this.

They ed people who had been shown to receive inadequate care to find out what their specific needs were and to understand why they had not accessed the services they needed.

In response to this, the researchers introduced and tested a new model of care with initiatives to make access the relevant mental health services easier.

The initiatives included working with local community groups, the introduction of a new well-being service and improved training for primary care teams, in particular GP receptionists who are often the first point of for patients who have mental health needs.

Professor Chris Dowrick, from the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society at the University of Liverpool who led the research, said: “Many people with mental health problems don’t get the help and support they need. We wanted to understand why this was and explore different ways to address this.

“Crucially, we found that there is a wealth of mental health expertise and knowledge in communities but it needs to be better nurtured and better coordinated.

“Although GP surgeries are often the main point of access to mental health care services they are not the only point. They need to be augmented by specialist well-being therapists and community and voluntary groups.

Professor Karina Lovell, from the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at The University of Manchester who also took part in the study, added: “Our aim was to develop new interventions by working closely with the target communities in Longsight and Wythenshawe. We tailored the psychological interventions to meet the needs of these specific groups and found that these interventions were acceptable and useful.

“This evidence can now inform further research and development to ensure that effective services are put in place for these underserved groups.”

The research, which also involved Professor Peter Bower and Professor Linda Gask, from The University of Manchester’s Institute of Population Health, was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Programme Grants for Applied Research.