Transforming mental health care across Norfolk and Waveney
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Ambitious plans to progress mental health over the next five years are underway in Norfolk and Waveney. Health and care partners are working together, alongside people who use services, carers and voluntary sector organisations, to shape future changes.
One of the key aims is to have a range of specialist support as close to where people live as possible. The introduction of Primary Care Network mental health nurses is one of the changes making a positive difference to people with mental health needs.
Lisa Dymond, one of the first Primary Care Network (groups of GP practices) mental health nurses in Norfolk, has described the satisfaction she gets from helping people recover by providing prompt, easy-to-access care and treatment.
Lisa began working from Watton Medical Practice, near Thetford, last September. She offers 40-minute appointments to people with mild to moderate mental health needs who are referred to her by the practice.
Patients are offered three to four sessions with Lisa, who aims to either provide them with the support they require before mental health deteriorates, or to equip them with techniques to help them manage their condition while they wait for an appointment with the appropriate service.
Lisa is one of the first Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) mental health practitioners in Norfolk to work alongside a family practice. The Trust is working closely with commissioners and Primary Care Networks to develop a programme that will eventually see mental health practitioners working in practices across the whole of Norfolk and Suffolk. This is an integral part of long-term plans to transform mental health community services.
“I absolutely love my job,” said Lisa. “To see people recover, regain their sense of self and return to the life they want is so rewarding and I’ve had some really positive feedback from patients so far.
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“I aim to offer the right support for people of all ages in an accessible place and before their problems become too great. At the moment, I see a lot of working age adults with low mood and anxiety, as well as with COVID-related issues such as bereavement and relationship breakdowns. I’m also supporting some patients with long COVID and helping them to cope with the fear of the unknown and any feelings of loss they may be experiencing.
“I also work with younger people and teenagers, many of whom are struggling with isolation and home schooling. Once someone’s routine is removed it can be very challenging, and the mental health of teenagers, in particular, is under extreme pressure at the moment. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people and young people are reaching out to ask for help.”
The service is making a real difference, as one service user explained: “I had a call from the mental health nurse on Friday. I would just like to thank her. She spent time, she was not in a rush, she listened. She was really there for me. It meant so much. Her kindness and understanding, ideas to help and she knows where I am in my journey. I just can't tell you how much it meant to me.“
Lisa is also working closely with NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG and NSFT’s children’s mental health services, and other children and young people services, so that patients can move seamlessly between different care settings.
“By working together, we can share information more easily,” said Lisa. “This means that the children and young people I refer onto Point 1 won’t need to repeat their story or have another assessment.
“I am fully booked, which shows that the demand for the primary care mental health practitioners is already huge, and it is only set to increase. For young people – and in fact anyone of any age – it is incredibly brave to discuss mental health. It is so important to make sure that they then get the support they need quickly, so that people realise they are not alone.”
Dr Penny Ayling, GP in North Norfolk and clinical advisor from NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG for the Primary Care Network mental health project, said: “Across primary care, we are seeing a steady rise in the amount of people coming to their GP with concerns and queries about their mental health and wellbeing – and with the gradual easing of lockdown we expect this number to increase.
"We are looking forward to GPs in Norfolk and Waveney having access to mental health practitioners like Lisa, who can help their patients access the support and treatment they need as soon as they can.”
If you are worried about your mental health speak to your GP or call the First Response helpline on 0808 196 3494 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week