Mental Health Team Helps Thousands Every Year – 16/10/08

Tens of thousands of Walsall residents have been given help to overcome mental health problems thanks to a unique team of dedicated nurses.

Between 10,000 and 12,000 residents every year take advantage of the borough’s Primary Care Mental Health Service (PCMHS), which now forms part of the newly created Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

The scheme, which aims to give specialist help to people with mild to moderate mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and stress, is promoting its services ahead of World Mental Health Day on Friday (OCT 10).

One in four people experience mental ill health at some point in their life and 90 per cent of these problems are classed as mild to moderate.

Walsall’s PCMHS is different to many other primary care mental health teams in the region. There has been a well established primary mental health team in Walsall for some 10 years with extensive resources to deliver mental health care. Over the last four years, the service has been able to attach a mental health nurse to each GP surgery, giving residents easy access to specialist advice and treatment.

Lesley Burton, primary care mental health manager, said the service was delivered in GP surgeries and health centres because there was a mental health need to a quarter of all GP consultations.

“People who are experiencing difficulties can book a 30 minute appointment with one of the team’s 12 mental health nurses in the same way as they would book an appointment with their GP or the practice nurse,” she said.

“We have eliminated the use of referral forms and, in most cases, paper based records in favour of using the electronic medical records held in the person’s GP surgery. Before we started working in this way, we were seeing around 1,500 people a year. Now we are seeing between 10-12,000 people a year.

“The specialist mental health nurses can provide assessments as well as offering a choice of treatments and therapies. Where appropriate, we signpost on to other statutory and voluntary organisations such as our primary care psychology department.

“By delivering services closer to people’s homes we are aiming to break down the stigma that surrounds mental illness and help more people overcome short-term problems that can affect their day-to-day life.”

Gary Graham, chief executive of the Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, said: “Walsall’s PCMHS provides an excellent service which has helped many people cope during difficult periods in their life. The team’s nurses offer a first port of call for anybody who is experiencing some form of mild to moderate mental health problem.”