Implementing the role of the primary care mental health worker: a qualitative study

Elizabeth England, Helen Lester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background Primary care mental health workers are a new role recently introduced into primary care in England to help manage patients with common mental health problems. Aim To explore The views of GPs, primary care teams and patients on the value and development of the new role of primary care mental health workers in practice. Design of study Qualitative study Setting The Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Teaching Trust in the West Midlands, UK. Method Thirty-seven semi-structured interviews involving seven primary care mental health workers, 21 patients and 11 focus groups involving 38 members of primary care teams were held with six teams with a worker. Two teams asked for the worker to be removed. Six practice managers also took part in the study. Results A number of different approaches were used to implement this new role. Strategies that incorporated the views of primary care trust senior management, primary car e teams and workers' views appeared most successful. Rapid access to a healthcare professional at times of stress and the befriending role of the worker were also highly valued. Workers felt that their role left them professionally isolated at times. A number of workers described tension around ownership of the role. Conclusion Primary care mental health workers appear to provide a range of skills valued by patients and the primary care teams and can increase patient access and choice in this area of health care. Successful implementation strategies highlighted in this study may be generalisable to other new roles in primary care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-211
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number536
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2007


  • health personnel
  • primary care mental health workers
  • mental health
  • primary health care


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