Nearly 200 people have benefited from a new specialist mental health service set up in June.

The new service which is being delivered from GP practices will test different ways of delivering support for patients with serious mental illness that are not being supported by specialist services.

Sheffield is one of twelve national sites selected by NHS England to test new ways of delivering and transforming how primary and community mental health services are provided.

As a result of being selected to test the new service, Sheffield has been able to invest an additional £2.4m per year into mental health services.  This has increased the number of staff available and the range of support that can be offered in general practices.

A new team was set up during the covid-19 pandemic and includes the health and voluntary sector. The team are based in GP practices and are working with adults who have serious mental illnesses and complex needs which local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services can't help, but are not complex enough to require specialist mental health team’s help. Some of the conditions seen by the service include anxiety and panic, mood problems, personality disorder, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Patients are seen close to their home and access to services is quick as GPs can book patients directly in to the specialist team without having to wait for a referral. Patients are still able to access other mental health services where required.

The service is being delivered in partnership by NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, Primary Care Sheffield, Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust, MIND and other voluntary sector partners, in collaboration with the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System. The programme is currently being tested across 21 GP practices in 4 primary care networks in Sheffield, and with the early success of the programme the commitment has been made to expand the service across city in the near future. 

Dr Terry Hudsen, Chair of NHS Sheffield CCG said: “Poor mental health is one of the biggest health challenges in our society with 1 in 4 people suffering from mental health issues. It has a significant impact on life expectancy and wellbeing. It is hoped that this new programme will enable more people to access mental health support appropriate for their condition. It is a great achievement that as a partnership we have been able to develop this new support within 5 months, which included recruiting new staff, during a time when many of us have been responding to the covid-19 pandemic. It’s also really positive that 40% of the people seen by the service so far are from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities - the way we are designing services is helping to address structural inequality.”

Fiona Goudie, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, and one of the programme Senior Responsible Officers, said: “The service launched in June despite covid-19, 195 patients were seen who were previously unable to get existing mental health support. This is a very necessary service which has been welcomed by patients and GPs alike.”

Dr Jennie Joyce, GP and Clinical Director of one of the Primary Care Networks involved in the project, said: “The new model has seen an incredible initial response.  It is a really welcome development for general practice, communities and patients.  We are really excited that patients are already benefitting from rapid mental health professional support closer to their homes.”

This new service is the first phase of improved support being provided. Throughout August and September there will be an increased range of support provided, including new funding for voluntary sector providers who have an essential role in helping to meet social and wellbeing needs.