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Polyclinics and psychiatry: risks and opportunities

  • Linda Gask (a1), Suresh Joseph (a2) and Michele Hampson (a3)

The arrival of the ‘polyclinic’ or ‘GP-led health centre’ has been signalled in the review of the National Health Service. A variety of options have been proposed for the way in which polyclinics will incorporate specialist services to work alongside primary care, and the relevance of these models to mental healthcare is considered. Polyclinics provide new opportunities but with those possibilities come potential threats and risks. Of key importance is the threat that they will re-institutionalise mental healthcare after many years of breaking down such barriers. Buildings provide shared space, but new working practices are more difficult to achieve.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Polyclinics and psychiatry: risks and opportunities

  • Linda Gask (a1), Suresh Joseph (a2) and Michele Hampson (a3)
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Polyclinics as hubs for delivering primary care mental health services

Safiullah Afghan, Consultant Psychiatrist, Walsall
23 March 2010

Whilst no one will disagree with the assertion that the proposed polyclinics will provide with range of opportunities which may include service integration, community engagement, social interaction and further education and learning, it is also important to give some practical suggestions and ideas towards that end.

Polyclinics can become hubs of community engagement, mental health public education and promotion if some of the activities highlighted beloware commissioned based on the specific needs and demands of local community.

a)Provision of proactive public education and awareness events including hosting of self help groups for common mental disorders especially for marginalized and hard to reach segments of population. Thiswill also be relevant for areas having distinct black, minority and ethnic (BME)and asylum seeking population as they are unable to seamlessly access care. The Community Development Workers can play an important role in coordinating these initiatives with the help of clinicians, voluntary agency workers.

b)Provision of group based psychological and social therapies, and other brief therapies (e.g. problem solving, supportive and post abuse counselling.

c)Broad services for young people and their families encompassing education, learning and therapeutic activities with regards to substance misuse, psychosis (in remission) and those with history of non serious offending.

d)Providing educational and vocational advice and training to mentalhealth service users as which could be run through shared funding and support by social care and third sector

The future of Mental Health: a vision for 2015 (2006) gives some useful examples. It states “by 2015, mental wellbeing will be the concern of all public services”. It also anticipates that future mental health services will be integrated into mainstream community locations such as libraries, GP surgeries and schools.

It is worth reminding that the agenda of public mental health as visibly enshrined in the New Horizons (2009) cannot be achieved without combating discrimination, still prevalent not only in public but even within health services & professionals and the initiatives such as above can serve a useful purpose.

Dr Safiullah AfghanPublic Education Officer, West Midlands DivisionConsultant Psychiatrist, Walsall

References:The Future of Mental Health: A vision for 2015, Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health (2006)New Horizons: Working together for better Mental Health, Department of Health (2009)
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