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Community mental health nurses in GP practices ‘significantly improves’ patient wellbeing

Community mental health nurses in GP practices ‘significantly improves’ patient wellbeing

Having community mental health nurses based at GP practices can significantly improve patient health outcomes, a new study has suggested.

The research from Staffordshire University is based on anonymised data of more than 1,500 patients at a primary care mental health service in North Staffordshire.

Patients in the study were treated over a period of three years by mental health nurses delivering targeted psychological interventions for a range of mental health problems.

Self-rated scores for mood and anxiety, before and after treatment, found that symptom severity and functioning significantly improved by the end of the programme.

A total of 92% of patients remained within the primary care mental health service throughout treatment, reducing the burden on secondary mental health care services as a result, researchers said.

Results also showed 67% of patients in employment returned to work from statutory sick pay and 5% of unemployed patients returned to work by the end of treatment.

In addition, 4% of patients moved off psychotropic medication – accounting for those who also started medication during the study period.

Authors said a ‘crucial factor’ affecting integration was a shared IT system, which delivered a ‘co-ordinated patient journey’ through treatment, assisted by technical training sessions for mental health professionals involved.

The study follows an NHS initiative to shift mental health teams away from the traditional secondary care service model, working within new multidisciplinary primary teams focused on GP practices, as part of the NHS Long-Term Plan.

Commenting on the results Dr Mark Kenwright, nursing course leader, at Staffordshire University said: ‘It’s really important that when people have a mental health problem and are in distress, they can see one person and tell their story just once and be booked in with the right person who will deliver the right evidence-based treatment for their problem.

‘It’s surprising how difficult it is to make that work in today’s NHS system.’

He added: ‘This research importantly shows that you can achieve integration and, that when done effectively, community mental health nurses can deliver vital treatment that moves people towards recovery and significantly improves their wellbeing.

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