The Lincoln Green Surgery in Leeds was recently rated as ‘outstanding’ by the CQC for its care for those with mental health problems. Practice manager Charlotte Eastwood provides us with an inside view on the improvements the practice has made in supporting those with mental health issues, and offers some practical advice on what other surgeries can do to support vulnerable people on the road to recovery
According to statistics body NHS Digital, at any one time, a sixth of those aged 16-to-64 in England could be dealing with a mental health issue. The importance of mental health treatment and care has gone under the radar for far too long, with the scale of the problem continuing to grow. In this context, the progressive approach of the Lincoln Green Surgery is even more special, believes Charlotte Eastwood.
The practice began increasing their level of support for patients experiencing mental health problems after noticing that more patients were visiting them with stress, resulting from financial or situational issues.
When developing initiatives to help, the practice felt they could achieve the best results by tackling the mental health of both the patients and the staff caring for them. Charlotte describes the process they undertook.
Strengthening understanding of patient needs
For patients, we introduced initiatives including weekly meditation sessions and a patient ambassador service.
Meditation is a simple technique, proven to reduce anxiety by helping individuals achieve a greater capacity for relaxation. Through additional services, such as our patient ambassador group, we gained another vital outlet in helping our patients to improve their mental health.
At our Lincoln Green Surgery our patient ambassadors can offer patients appointment times that are longer than the traditional GP consultation length. This gives patients crucial extra time to talk, deepening our ambassador’s understanding of their problems and helping us to better tailor support to individual patient needs. In addition, we can direct patients to a wide range of online NHS information resources to help them to relieve their stress and its associated effects.
Delivering even higher levels of patient care
For our managers, we implemented monthly mindfulness sessions to help them better manage their own stress. Mindfulness, like meditation, is a technique that is known to be effective in retraining the mind – in this case, in helping to remove any distracting or negative thoughts and enabling a better focus on tasks in hand. By improving their resilience, and reducing stress, these techniques help ensure managers are in the best possible shape to deliver even higher quality levels of patient care.
A role model for other surgeries
The benefits of our initiatives were clear and evident in the CQC’s inspection report; our data revealed that virtually all Lincoln Green patients with dementia and poor mental health issues had received a comprehensive review and documented care plan in the last twelve months; this is above our local CCG’s average of 88%.
With awareness of mental health issues growing all the time, the work we are doing offers a great example to other practices and is a model which, with careful planning, they can also successfully adopt.
We’ve worked incredibly hard to drive up patient support care in this area, so it was special for us to get this recognition from the CQC. As with all our initiatives, programmes such as our patient ambassadors – where individuals can get the extra support they need – are already proving popular and are hugely appreciated. We’ve also shared our ideas with many other surgeries, which is making a real difference in our local community.
Recognition and support for those struggling with mental health issues is also improving nationally, with the government recently pledging to provide more support as part of their Long Term Plan for the NHS. This includes better mental health care for new parents and young people – which for many of the latter group – is currently being offered too late.
However, if we are to beat the scourge of growing mental health issues, more work still needs to be done to help all groups in society; if more practices follow our example, we’ll be in a much better position to support those who are still suffering.