The latest Stakeholder Reference group, hosted by Surrey Heartlands’ Senior Responsible Officer Dr Claire Fuller, took place at Leatherhead Leisure Centre where a large audience of expert patients, community and voluntary sector representatives heard about plans for mental and physical healthcare delivery in primary care.

Primary care services provide the first point of contact in the public healthcare system, acting as the ‘front door’ of the NHS. Primary care includes GP, pharmacy, dentist and optician services.

The Stakeholder Reference Group heard an introduction to Primary Care Networks from Dr Charlotte Canniff, Primary Care Network lead for Surrey Heartlands and Clinical Chair for North West Surrey CCG.

Primary Care Networks have been described as the building blocks of an Integrated Care System such as Surrey Heartlands. GP surgeries are being encouraged to work together in Primary Care Networks or hubs with combined patient populations of at least 30,000-50,000 or more.  This creates opportunities to share other services such as community nursing, mental health, and clinical pharmacy teams, to expand diagnostic facilities, and pool responsibility for urgent care (such as GP out-of-hours services) and extended access.

Stakeholders also heard a presentation on work to deliver an integrated primary mental health service from Dr Julia Chase, Surrey Heartlands Clinical Lead for Mental Health.

Achieving parity for mental health and improving the physical health of people with mental health continue to be priorities as part of the delivery of the Mental Health Five Year Forward View.

As part of this, further integration of mental health services within the new local models of care (i.e. around primary care networks) in Surrey Heartlands continues to be developed to create whole-person care that responds to mental health, physical health and social needs together.

If we get mental health support in primary care right, we can help people stay well. This is good for individuals, families, communities and the wider health and social care system.