The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) recognises the importance of the provision of Mental Health Services in Primary Care to support common mild to moderate conditions and in particular, it recognises counselling services as one of a number of effective treatments for patients.
Where necessary, people with mental ill health are referred by their GP to secondary care mental health services in the five Health and Social Care Trusts across Northern Ireland.
The HSCB’s investment in the Mental Health Programme of Care was £267m in 2016/17 (excluding Primary Care).
During 2017/18, £1.66m was invested in Local Enhanced Services (LES) (a 4% increase on the previous year) to enable GP practices to treat patients with mild to moderate mental health conditions using counselling services.
Since 2014/2015 expenditure has increased by 36% and in 2018/19 the HSCB will continue to invest in this invaluable service. This service is currently provided by more than two thirds of all GP Practices in Northern Ireland.
As independent contractors GPs have the choice to provide this service or not for their patients. However, the HSCB meet regularly with GP representatives to encourage GP practices to contract for services where uptake is lower than in other areas.
As well as the LES, the HSCB has invested in other counselling services to support GPs treating mild to moderate mental health conditions, therefore ensuring everyone in Northern Ireland has access to appropriate care and treatment.
This includes around £2m per year in Primary Care Talking Therapies Hubs that provide counselling through local, accredited community and voluntary organisations and £1.13m for the ‘Beating the Blues’ counselling therapy service which people can access from a home computer.
In addition, roll out of new Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs), announced by the Department of Health under Transformation Funding, has commenced in the Down and Derry/Londonderry GP Federations with the West Belfast MDT rolled out in December 2018. The Multi-Disciplinary Team approach will radically reform the way services are delivered. It aligns with the vision set out within “Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together”, which is about putting the person and their needs at the centre of our service delivery. The new MDTs which are based within GP practices may include mental health practitioners such as mental health nurses, occupational therapists and social workers, providing care to people requiring help with common mental health problems.