Background: Patients with psychosocial problems may benefit from a variety of community, educational, recreational and voluntary sector resources, but GPs often under-refer to these through lack of knowledge and time. This study evaluated the acceptability and effectiveness of graduate primary care mental health workers (GPCMHWs) facilitating access to voluntary and community sector services for patients with psychosocial problems.
Methods: Patients with psychosocial problems from 13 general practices in London were referred to a GPCMHW Community Link scheme providing information and support to access voluntary and community resources. Patient satisfaction, mental health and social outcomes, and use of primary care resources, were evaluated.
Results: 108 patients consented to take part in the study. At three-month follow-up, 63 (58%) had made contact with a community service identified as suitable for their needs. Most were satisfied with the help provided by the GPCMHW in identifying and supporting access to a suitable service. There was a reduction in the number of patients with a probable mental health problem on the GHQ-12 from 83% to 52% (difference 31% (95% CI, 17% - 44%). Social adjustment improved and frequencies of primary care consultations and of prescription of psychotropic medications were reduced.
Conclusion: Graduates with limited training in mental health and no prior knowledge of local community resources can help patients with psychosocial problems access voluntary and community services, and patients value such a scheme. There was some evidence of effectiveness in reducing psychosocial and mental health problems.