Improving access to psychological therapies for those with long-term health conditions

Residents of Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) and Wiltshire are benefiting from a ground-breaking programme that offers psychological therapies to people with common mental health problems as well as long-term physical conditions.

Specialist mental health practitioners have based themselves in GP surgeries and community hubs in both counties, and will work closely with the three acute hospitals; Bath’s Royal United Hospital, the Salisbury Foundation Trust and Swindon’s Great Western Hospital.

This will ensure a more direct referral route is in place for patients with existing long-term physical conditions who are already receiving treatment from those hospitals.

“This new way of delivering services is very accessible and makes it much easier for GP’s, nurses and other health professionals to refer or signpost to interventions that really make a difference to people’s lives and can reduce the need for onward healthcare,” said Ted Wilson, Director of Community and Joint Commissioning at Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

“Joining up the services and making them more integrated will allow patients to manage their conditions more confidently, which in turn will reduce their emotional strain, which poses a real risk of harm to their physical and mental wellbeing,” he added.

The programme is being provided by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) and the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services in Wiltshire and B&NES. IAPT is part of a national NHS England programme to support its ‘Five Year Forward View’ – a vision of better health, better patient care and improved NHS efficiency.

The new service in B&NES and Wiltshire will enable evidence-based psychological interventions to be offered under a ‘stepped-care’ approach. Individuals will be able to self-refer to the programme and will be offered the intensity of intervention that is most appropriate for their condition. The programme will link with primary care professionals, community teams and local hospitals.

Dr Claire Williamson, Head of Psychological Therapies for AWP said: “The new programme of local IAPT services has started.  Initially, services will offer support to people with diabetes as well as common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. This will be expanded to include those with other long-term health conditions. It’s a great opportunity to take a holistic approach to both physical and psychological wellbeing,” she added.

Dr Daisy Curling, local GP and clinical lead for mental health on NHS Bath and North East Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group Board said: “We know that when mental and physical problems are treated alongside each other, people can often achieve better outcomes. This new programme offers a real chance to make those outcomes a reality.”