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We aimed to evaluate a pilot service to facilitate discharge of patients with stable long-term mental health needs from secondary to primary care.
Patients with stable long-term mental health conditions are often not discharged from secondary mental health services when no longer needed due to insufficient systems and processes to enable safe, effective, recovery-focussed treatment and support. The Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PCMHS) Service was developed to address this gap; new PCMHS posts were introduced to act as a conduit for patients being discharged from secondary care and a single point of referral back into secondary care, should it be required. The two-year pilot, across six Clinical Commissioning Groups in South East England, began in March 2013.
Interviews were conducted with all PCMHS employed in the pilot service (n=13) and a sample of service users (n=12). The views of professionals working alongside the service, including GPs, Psychiatrists and Mental Health Nurses, were captured using a brief online questionnaire (n=50). Time and Activity Recording Sheets were used to capture data required for economic analysis.
Our findings indicate that the service is working well from the perspective of patients; staff employed within the service and professionals working alongside the service. Patients described the service as a ‘safety net’ they could fall back on in case of difficulties, whereas staff used the analogy of a ‘bridge’ to describe the way the service improved communication and collaboration between the various professionals and organisations involved in the patient’s care. Improvements in well-being were seen to result from increased support for those transitioning from secondary to primary care, a more pro-active approach to relapse prevention and increased engagement in daily activities. Each PCMHS covered 36 patients in a one-month period, with a unit cost of £73.01 per patient.
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