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Br J Gen Pract. 2002 Nov;52(484):926-33.

Primary care mental health workers: models of working and evidence of effectiveness.

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National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, University of Manchester.


The NHS Plan proposed the creation of a new role in primary care to assist with the management of common mental health problems: the primary care mental health worker (PCMHW). However, it is not clear how PCMHWs should be employed to be most effective. Current literature concerning different models of mental health care is reviewed. This suggests that four key dimensions are of relevance: the types of patients that PCMHWs will manage; the degree to which PCMHWs will work autonomously, or as part of a system of care; at what stage in patients' illness trajectory they will intervene; and whether the role of PCMHWs will be related to clinical interventions, or whether they will have a wider, non-clinical role in the organisation and monitoring of care. Finally, published data concerning relevant interventions are presented. Experimental studies reporting the empirical outcomes associated with these models are reviewed in relation to four different outcomes: clinical effectiveness, cost effectiveness, patient satisfaction, and access to care. The data suggest that problem-solving therapy, group psycho-education, self-help, and some models of 'collaborative care' may be highly relevant to PCMHWs. Each model provides different advantages and disadvantages in terms of the four dimensions of outcome.

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