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New commissioning guidance on mental health services

Suite of guidance aims to fill skills gap in challenging area for new CCGs

Caroline White

Tuesday, 07 February 2012

Mentally ill patients should be managed mainly in primary care, with an emphasis on integrated service provision, a stepped care approach, and a clear focus on prevention and early identification, recommends new commissioning guidance published by the Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health (JCP-MH).

The guidance for commissioners of primary mental healthcare services is part of a suite of four easy to use guides, which bring together scientific evidence, patient and carer experience and viewpoints, and examples of best practice, in a bid to describe what good quality, modern mental health services should look like for the best possible outcomes.

The other three guides focus on commissioning dementia services, liaison services, and those for young people moving from child and adolescent services to adult provision.

The JCP-MH was set up last March amid concerns about the future commissioning of mental health services. It is spearheaded by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Royal College of GPs, in collaboration with 15 other leading organisations with an interest in mental health, learning disabilities, and wellbeing.

Professor Helen Lester, commissioning lead for mental health at the Royal College of GPs and co-chair of the Panel said: “As a practising GP, I know that it can often be challenging to get the right care in the right place at the right time for people with mental health problems. Every commissioning group should have a set of these guides close at hand.”

A further 10 guides are in production covering: addictions services; acute mental health care; child and adolescent mental health services; community mental health services; eating disorder services; forensic services; perinatal services; public mental health interventions; rehabilitation services; and services for older people.

Dr Neil Deuchar, commissioning lead at the Royal College of Psychiatrists and co-chair of the Panel, said: “We know that commissioning mental health services can be challenging, particularly in these times of uncertainty and change. By bringing together experts from all parts of mental health the panel aims to help current and future commissioners gain confidence and expertise in ‘values-based’ mental health commissioning.”

Steve Shrubb, Director of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, one of the 15 partnering organisations in the Panel, said there was “massive potential” for GPs to improve the nation's mental health as they take over commissioning of NHS services.

“We also know that many GPs themselves recognise that they do not yet have all the skills they need to commission mental health services. We are really keen to support GPs as they take over their new responsibilities and these guides provide a really important resource which is backed up by the best available evidence.”

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