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New NHS funding to transform community mental health services

People in East Berkshire, South West Surrey and North East Hants who have a severe mental illness are set to benefit from a ground-breaking new community mental health service designed to improve access to a wide range of specialist support.

Extended appointments with mental health experts from the NHS, social care and specialist third sector organisations, plus access to therapies, physical health checks and pharmacists, are just some of the wider expertise patients will be able to access at their local GP practice and in the community under new ways of working.

Patients will be able to explore the situation affecting their wellbeing – whether that is an ongoing mental or physical health problem, loneliness, debt, or other issues. They can then be guided to appropriate resources that may help, including talking therapies, benefits advice, or an introduction to a local community group.

Around 50% of those with severe mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, or major depression, currently see their GP to manage the majority of their care and treatment.

But, until now, multi-agency support has mostly only been available to those referred to a specialist community mental health team.

The Frimley Health and Care Integrated Care System (of which East Berkshire is part of) has been awarded £5.20m from a total of £70m set aside by NHS England to transform community mental health care in twelve ‘early implementer’ areas.

Mental health specialists Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust will lead the local implementation over the next two years.

Susanna Yeoman, Divisional Director for Mental Health Services at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This focus on high quality and accessible mental health services in local communities is a significant step towards improving care for people with mental health issues. The shift towards this integrated, preventative approach will begin to address health inequalities and ensure people can access timely support.”