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Mental health nurse liaison with GPs 'highly valued'

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Mental health nurse-led liaison services in primary care are “highly valued” by GPs and can improve the quality of care for patients, a study in London has found.

GPs and practitioners working as part of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme told researchers that the primary care liaison nurse team they had in place in their area had a number of benefits.

”The primary care liaison nurse service can potentially improve the quality of primary care”

Study on mental health nurse liaison with GPs

They said the team – which is made up of 12 mental health nurses, an operational manager and consultant psychiatrist - improved integration between services, through sharing IT systems and having face-to-face conversations between nurses and practice staff.

In addition, all of the group of 10 GPs and IAPT practitioners interviewed said they valued the clinical knowledge and experience of the mental health liaison nurses – who each work across five GP surgeries.

The researchers, from City, University of London, said that, in particular, primary care staff highlighted nurses’ skills in assessing and managing risk.

The liaison nurses were also helping to provide care in relation to both physical and mental health problems, as well as reducing stigma for patients by seeing them in the community as well as in surgeries, said the research, published in the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing.

Interviewees said the nurses improved access by helping to cover a “huge gap” between services for common mental health disorders – that include interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling – and those for more complex or serious cases in secondary care.

In addition, the efficiency of the service increased due to short waiting times between referrals and appointments with the team.

“Further research is required to provide more detail on the impact of such teams on health outcomes, recovery rates, families and carers”

Study on mental health nurse liaison with GPs

Interviewees noted the team of nurses also helped to keep patients out of hospital who previously would have been referred, which the researchers suggested was due to their ability to manage risk effectively.

However, those taking part noted the high turnover of staff within the liaison team and said poor retention was a barrier to building working relationships.

“The study highlights that the primary care liaison nurse service can potentially improve the quality of primary care and is a highly valued service amongst its professional stakeholders,” said the research paper, called Exploring the value of mental health nurses working in primary care in England: a qualitative study.

“Similar studies could seek to expand the range of participants, including interviewing patients and nurses themselves, which could provide more insight into some of the issues highlighted, such as retention of nurses.

“Further research is required to provide more detail on the impact of such teams on health outcomes, recovery rates, families and carers, the impact of reduced referral rates to secondary care and A&E, and cost-effectiveness,” it added.

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