Boost for mental health support at GP practices in Lancashire and South Cumbria

Residents in Lancashire and South Cumbria have access to more help from their GP practice thanks to an expansion in specialist staff.
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Local mental health services have been boosted by the creation of a new psychology trainee role, with 25 placements in primary care networks around Lancashire.

The Trainee Associate Psychological Practitioners – or TAPPs - provide brief psychological support to patients and community groups, offering self-care techniques and promoting healthy emotional and physical wellbeing.

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Often, they are helping people who are struggling as a result of the impact of Covid and young people who are having difficulties with the return to school or dealing with exam pressures.

Trainee associate psychological practitioner Eleanor Newton. Photo by Steve Pendrill.Trainee associate psychological practitioner Eleanor Newton. Photo by Steve Pendrill.
Trainee associate psychological practitioner Eleanor Newton. Photo by Steve Pendrill.

They are offering one to one sessions with individuals referred by their GP and they are reaching out to community groups to run wellbeing sessions in which they offer techniques in understanding and managing symptoms.

They are also working with clinicians to help improve the support offered to patients with a range of long term physical health conditions such as diabetes.

Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Dr Miranda Budd of Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust said: “We shouldn’t leave people to deteriorate before they get help; in general practice settings, you can make big changes soon after the onset of symptoms, it can be more difficult when these symptoms grow and become entrenched.

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“We want everyone to realise the importance of looking after their emotional wellbeing.”

The aim is to improve access to mental health wellbeing support in local communities and to provide a new career route for psychology graduates trying to join the NHS.

TAPP Eleanor Newton who started her role at Bay Medical Group in March, said: “There are stop smoking and couch-to-5k campaigns to get people physically fit. This new service is to help people look after their mental health in a similar way, by helping to promote emotional wellbeing and resilience in the community and encouraging people to reach out if they are experiencing problems before they feel unmanageable.

“My message is don’t wait until you feel so low that you feel you need medication or don’t feel able to go to work; as soon as you recognise feelings of stress and anxiety you can take steps to improve your emotional wellbeing.

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“This is an opportunity to stop these feelings developing into something more serious, to prevent avoidable suffering; and if you have a better understanding of your emotional wellbeing and ways to keep yourself mentally and physically well, you will be able to help family and friends too.”

The trainees are employed through Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, while studying for a post graduate diploma with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). The pilot project was funded by Health Education England after a bid from the Innovation Agency and the People Boards in Lancashire and South Cumbria and Cheshire and Merseyside.

The plan is to spread the TAPP role to other areas of the country, through Health Education England.