Mental health problems affect one in four people and nine in 10 will be seen in primary care. But people still experience discrimination when using general practice.
In a 2011 survey, Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma programme run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, found 32% of people using mental health services had experienced stigma and discrimination in other parts of the NHS. Further research concluded there had been no significant improvement in the stigma and discrimination people faced in the health service between 2008 and 2011. By contrast, people reported marked reductions in discrimination in other areas of their lives, for example, from friends and family, or in their social lives.
To address this,Time to Change piloted a project with GP surgeries in south London and Staffordshire. It followed evaluation of an earlier pilot among primary care staff which found training boosted confidence in working with patients with mental health problems.
When staff were asked, before training, whether they would be willing to work with a patient with a mental health problem, only 76% agreed they would be. After training, this figure rose to 92%.
Reception staff, nurses and GPs received a 10 minute face-to-face conversation with a trainer with mental health problems who discussed their experience of primary care, shared their experiences of discrimination plus positive examples of what had worked well. An online resource was developed for use after the training.
More than 500 health professionals received training across the two pilots, surpassing the target of 300. Evaluation showed a 23% increase in confidence in supporting people with mental health problems after training and a 12% increase in comfort communicating with people with mental health problems.
Having developed, piloted and evaluated this innovative training we want to encourage wider roll out on a commissioned basis. Please find out more at www.ttcprimarycare.org.uk
Sue Baker, director, Time to Change