Common mental health problems are highly prevalent in primary care, the UK National Service Framework for mental health demanding that effective and accessible services be made available. Although built upon a strong evidence base, traditional psychological therapies are often limited in terms of their applicability and availability. As a consequence innovative self-help programmes are increasingly being advocated as an alternative means of managing mental health illness within primary care. This study reports the results of a three month evaluation of a self-help service provided by a busy UK urban Primary Care Trust. Levels of utilization, effectiveness and stakeholder acceptability were examined through a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. A total of 662 patients were referred to the self-help clinics over a three month period, 67% of whom attended their first appointment. The mean number of sessions per patient was 2.8 (SD = 2.4), with an average total time of 69.6 min (SD = 48.2). Mean Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation (CORE-OM) scores improved significantly between baseline and three month follow-up (P <0.001), 39% of patients demonstrating a clinically significant improvement. Both selfhelp therapists and referring general practitioners reported moderate to high satisfaction with the self-help treatment model, with the majority of patients perceiving the intervention to be appropriate to their needs. Data demonstrated that, whilst there was a clear need for a simple self-help service to be based in primary care, the ultimate success of this provision necessitates a well developed infrastructure capable of providing sufficient support and information to ensure that it is flexible and responsive to individual needs.
- common mental health problems; primary care; self-help; service education; therapy