Primary mental health workers in child and adolescent mental health services
Article first published online: 18 MAR 2004
Journal of Advanced Nursing
Volume 46, Issue 1, pages 78–87, April 2004
How to Cite
Macdonald, W., Bradley, S., Bower, P., Kramer, T., Sibbald, B., Garralda, E. and Harrington, R. (2004), Primary mental health workers in child and adolescent mental health services. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 46: 78–87. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2003.02967.x
- Issue published online: 18 MAR 2004
- Article first published online: 18 MAR 2004
- Submitted for publication 31 August 2002 Accepted for publication 15 October 2003
- mental health;
- primary care;
Background. The interface between primary care and specialist services is increasingly seen as crucial in the effective management of child and adolescent mental health (CAMH) problems. In the United Kingdom, a new role of primary mental health worker (PMHW), has been established in order to achieve effective collaboration across the interface through the provision of clinical care in primary care settings and by improving the skills and confidence of primary care staff. However, little is known about the development of this innovative role in service contexts. Issues raised during the early stages of implementation may have important implications for the preparation and development of professionals who undertake the role.
Aims. The aim of this paper is to report on a study that examined key issues in implementation of the PMHW role in six health authorities in England.
Methods. Case study evaluation was conducted, using thematic analysis of 75 qualitative interviews with key stakeholders from different professions (e.g. PMHWs, general practitioners, health visitors, psychiatrists and service managers) and representing different sectors (primary care, specialist services and community child health services).
Findings. The study identified three models of organization (outreach, primary care-based and teams). Each was associated with different advantages and disadvantages in its effects on referral rates to specialist services and the development of effective working relationships with primary care providers. Problems associated with accommodation and effective integration of PMHWs with specialist services, and tensions caused by the two different roles that PMHWs could undertake (direct clinical care vs. consultation-liaison) were common across all sites.
Conclusions. The PMHW role is an important development that may go some way towards realizing the potential of primary care services in CAMH. The implementation of new roles and models of working in primary care is complex, but may be facilitated by effective planning with primary care providers, clear goals for staff, and a long-term perspective on service development.