Improving access to primary care mental health services for under-served groups
We will be continuing to explore innovative ways of working with older people with anxiety and depression in our new programme of work in Primary Care and Health Sciences."
Keele University researchers, Carolyn Chew-Graham and Heather Burroughs, were co-investigators in a study that has identified ways to improve how older people and ethnic minority populations access mental health care services.
As part of the `Improving Access to Mental Health in Primary Care’ programme, funded by NIHR, researchers sought to identify why two underserved groups in four areas of Liverpool and Manchester did not mental health services that were available and what could be done to address this.
The researchers, from the universities of Liverpool and Manchester, interviewed people from groups known to receive inadequate care to find out what their specific needs were and to understand why they hadn’t accessed the services that may help.
In response to this, the researchers introduced and tested a new model of care with initiatives to make access the relevant mental health services easier.
The initiatives included working with local community groups, the introduction of a new well-being service and improved training for primary care teams, in particular GP receptionists who are often the first point of contact for patients who have mental health needs.
Carolyn and Heather are now members of the Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences at Keele and are continuing this work in older people.
Professor Chris Dowrick, from the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society in Liverpool, who led the research, said: “Many people with mental health problems don’t get the help and support they need. We wanted to understand why this was and explore different ways to address this.
“Crucially, we found that there is a wealth of mental health expertise and knowledge in communities but it needs to be better nurtured and better coordinated."
Carolyn says that “Although GP surgeries are often the main point of access to mental health care services they are not the only point. They need to be augmented by specialist well-being therapists working closely with practices, and existing community and voluntary groups, which practices are not always aware of.
“We also found that psychological interventions need to be tailored to meet the specific needs of particular groups. We will be continuing to explore innovative ways of working with older people with anxiety and depression in our new programme of work in Primary Care and Health Sciences."
Prof Dowrick concluded “Overall, our study found that a range of interventions across different providers resulted in greater awareness and use of mental health services by underserved groups. Further research is needed to test these results.”
The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Programme Grants for Applied Research
To read the full report in the Programme Grants for Applied Research journal, please visit the NIHR Journals Library website.