Primary care networks and mental health services post COVID-19

Image of business people nurturing plants growing with light bulbs at the top to show Primary care networks and mental health services post COVID-19

Joint working between primary care networks and providers of mental health services must accelerate if the NHS is to help the huge increase in the number of people needing support for their mental health in the coming months and years.

Early modelling suggests half a million more people may need support, with depression being the most common condition.

A new briefing by the NHS Confederation’s PCN Network and Mental Health Network sets out where such opportunities may lie and possible approaches mental health providers and PCNs could take to improve partnership working. It says better partnership working will not only help to meet rising demand in the short-term but also ultimately improve care for patients with a mental health condition in the long-term.

The briefing, which comes off the back of a meeting between senior leaders from the two networks’ memberships in June, shines a light on where partnership working has been successful, including how Mosaic Healthcare PCN in Hampshire used data and stakeholder workshops to identify the physical and mental health needs of their population which lead to a clear focus on social prescribing and closer relationships with social services and voluntary organisations.

It contains practical advice for both PCNs on developing relationships with mental health professionals, social prescribers, clinical pharmacists and the third sector.

Ruth Rankine, PCN Network Director, said: “The impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of the population will be felt for a long time after the physical health crisis subsides. If ever there was a time to work together as a system – across primary, secondary, community and voluntary sectors – it is now.”

Sean Duggan, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Network, said: “We know there is a variation in relationships between primary and secondary services across the country. Yet we also know that where there are strong links and mutual trust there is flexibility, improved step-down and preventative support and, crucially, better outcomes for the people that need support for their mental health, which is the most important thing of all.”