Mental health practitioners

Mental health practitioners contribute to the NHS Long Term Plan ambition to develop new and integrated models of primary and community mental health care, to support adults and older adults with severe mental illnesses to live well in their communities. Community mental health transformation defines those severely affected by mental illness, including but not limited to; psychosis, bipolar disorder, ‘personality disorder’ diagnosis, eating disorders, severe depression and mental health rehabilitation needs – some of which may be co-existing with other conditions such as frailty, cognitive impairment, neurodevelopmental conditions, or substance use.

These roles were introduced to the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) of the Network Contract DES in April 2021, enabling professionals with mental health expertise to be based in GP surgeries or neighbourhood settings, to support people with complex mental health needs and act as a ‘bridge’ between primary care and specialist mental health services. These roles sit alongside NHS Talking Therapies for anxiety and depression, and a range of other roles within primary care that provide mental health support. Mental health practitioners provide GPs and other primary care staff with timely support and advice, helping to relieve pressure on workloads and build stronger relationships with mental health services.

Local areas can tailor the role to meet their needs, and we advise areas to consult with people with lived experience about the kind of support that will be most useful to them. To enable areas to meet local needs, a mental health practitioner role can be taken on by a wide range of staff with mental health expertise (ranging from Band 4-8a). This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Peer support workers
  • Community psychiatric nurses
  • Clinical psychologists
  • Mental health social workers
  • Mental health occupational therapists
  • Mental health community connectors

These roles are funded 50/50 between primary care Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) funding and funding held by integrated care systems (ICSs) for community mental health transformation. The roles are employed by mental health providers (or subcontracted to a voluntary, community or social enterprise (VCSE) provider) and are embedded in primary care – working in local GP surgeries or neighbourhood settings. Each primary care network (PCN) is entitled to a minimum of one mental health practitioner (where population is up to 100k) or two mental health practitioners (where population is more than 100k). Additional mental health practitioners can be employed where the PCN and mental health provider are in agreement, based on local population needs and availability of other mental health services and pathways.

As of winter 2022-23, 717 primary care networks (PCNs) have a mental health practitioner in place (62% of all PCNs).

To hear about what it’s like to work as a mental health practitioner, read Lisa’s blog.

Mental health practitioners can also be recruited to work with children and young people in addition to the adult and older adult mental health practitioner role. These roles focus on supporting children and young people who present to primary care with identified or suspected mental health issues, offering access to mental health advice and additional support. These roles support the NHS Long Term Plan aim for an additional 345,000 children and young people (aged 0-25) to access mental health services. Roll out of these roles has been supported by £5 million fair share funding in 22/23 in order to test and accelerate these roles.