Guest Blog - Part 2: Trainee Associate Psychological Practitioners working across Primary Care Networks to provide a Mental Health Prevention and Promotion Service, Dr Miranda Budd
Across Lancashire and South Cumbria, 24 Trainee Associate Psychological Practitioners (TAPPs), at a band 4 level, have been recruited to general practice and community settings to deliver a mental health prevention and promotion service. Once qualified, they drop the ‘T’ and become APPs, at a band 5 level. Some of the TAPPs are based within one or two GP practices and some are spreading the service they provide across a whole primary care network (PCN), which in one case means up to 10 practices.
The service delivery model for the TAPPs in primary care settings is informed by the feasibility evaluation project discussed in part one of this blog. Their focus is upon preventing deterioration in mental distress, promoting emotional wellbeing, normalising mental health and promoting community resiliency. The step-up from just two general practice settings to service delivery across 24 primary care settings has been interesting. The project moved quickly and ensuring effective communication with all key stakeholders was a challenge. We’ve learnt a lot about the importance of healthy working relationships with colleagues based in CCGs, PCN leads and Clinical Directors to ensure the work placements for the TAPPs are effectively set up. Time has flown and we now find ourselves half way through the first project year. The dust has settled and the TAPPs are all currently working hard to provide the service and working well with their colleagues.
The TAPPs development also builds upon the second question from the feasibility study which related to workforce supply. The project explores how psychology graduates can be appropriately trained to deliver psychological ways of working and be deployed across primary care settings. This time, instead of the less formal training, the TAPPs are working to complete a postgraduate diploma, facilitated by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
It seems to be that the development of the TAPPs combined course and placement programme has three main beneficiaries. Firstly, of course, the users of the service, whose health we aim to improve, the services the TAPPs are placed within and the workforce themselves. It is well known that there are significant issues within the ‘supply’ chain of psychological practitioners. In primary care settings, the forthcoming move to employ mental health practitioners under the ‘ARRs’ scheme (additional reimbursement roles) will further serve to increase the demand for appropriately qualified mental health professionals. When roles are not recruited to, ultimately, this of course has a negative impact upon the service a population will receive and reduces the chance that their needs will be met.
Every year, thousands of psychology graduates leave University hoping to start a career in healthcare, or more specifically the field of psychological health. Yet there isn’t the career structure for these graduates to get into the NHS and the need for employment sees them turn to alternative careers. There were over 600 applicants within 3 days for the TAPPs roles, so the supply is certainly there. Having a career structure that helps graduates gain employment in the area they want to and develop their skills within the psychological profession, answers workforce supply-demand issues and therefore ensures service-users have access to a good service; there are clearly many ‘winners’.
This work demonstrates the benefits psychological practitioners can bring to general practice settings and highlights the importance of focusing upon mental health prevention and promotion. It is hoped that as the workforce increases, TAPPs become APPs and new TAPPs will come into post and start their work-placement. Being able to book an appointment with a psychological practitioner down at your local GP’s will soon be something we will all be able to benefit from.
The TAPPs are completing a Postgraduate Diploma at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and are employed through Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust. Other key partners are Health Education England North West; Innovation Agency; LWABs in Cheshire and Merseyside and Lancashire and South Cumbria and the Psychological Professions Network North West.
If you’d like to hear more about this, join the 'Deploying Psychology graduates to primary care and community settings to provide a mental health prevention and promotion service: Results of a feasibility study' webinar on the 22nd July 2021,11:30am - 12:30pm: https://www.nwppn.nhs.uk/events/icalrepeat.detail/2021/07/22/451/-/webinar-deploying-psychology-graduates-to-primary-care-and-community-settings-to-provide-a-mental-health-prevention-and-promotion-service-results-of-a