Improving access to primary mental health services: are link workers the answer?

North West London
Published Date: 1 Jan 2014


To evaluate the effect of locating mental health link workers in general practitioners' (GP) surgeries on referral of BME patients to IAPT services.


In 2009, an initiative in Southall helped practitioners and managers that served geographic areas to work with many different agencies to improve whole systems of care. One strand of this work led to mental health link workers being placed in 6 of the 23 GP practices. They provided psychological therapy and raised awareness of common mental disorders in BME groups and what mental health services can do to improve these. Referrals to the service were monitored and assessed using statistical process control.


The mean referral rate of BME patients for GP practices without a link worker was 0.35 per week per 10 000 patients and was unchanged throughout the period of the study. The referral rates for the six practices with a link worker increased from 0.65 to 1.37 referrals per week per 10 000 patients.


 Link workers located in GP practices, as part of a collaborative network of healthcare, show promise as one way to improve the care of patients with anxiety and depression from BME communities.

Liz Evans