Graduate mental health worker. Second national conference

Graduate mental health worker. Second national conference – The Next Steps

Pollock, Laurence

November 3 and 4, 2004

The map of mental health used to be a simple affair. Thirty years ago community psychiatric nursing broke away from inpatient settings and practitioners found themselves in one sphere or the other. That was it.

But today’s post modern world sees crossovers, hybrids and infinite variations developing. Its an exciting time for those who believe the old structures were too clumsy. But the new opportunities also raise many questions and concerns.

Primary care graduate mental health workers are one of the most innovative groups appearing on the radar. The graduate workers were first proposed in the NHS plan in 2000 as an extra resource to help general practices manage and treat common mental health problems across all age groups.

As thinking has developed there is an emphasis on being rooted in locality with an ability to identify an area’s needs.

The first tranche of graduate workers now have some experience behind them and it possible for health planners to assess what is happening on the ground. At the recent, second national conference for graduate workers, pioneers and strategists mingled with the young practitioners who are delivering this new strand of mental health care.

Ian Baguley the conference chair described the collaboration between NIMHE North West and the Trent Workforce Development Confederation as a ‘huge success’ for the graduate worker programme.

This is a really exciting time for the NHS. We are at the beginning of a huge change. Services driven by service users are driving the agenda.’

He acknowledged that people carrying out new roles were not always welcomed by existing professionals but they would not be the first to experience this – he had once been thrown out of a meeting for saying CPNs should spend more time with those who were seriously mentally ill and Kevin Gournay had been vilified as a leader of the ‘new nurse brutalists’.

Debbie Nixon, primary care lead with NIMHE North West said the graduate worker programme was a lever for modernising the whole system. Goals included raising the profile of the group, supporting a consistent evidence based approach and responding to and shaping the national evaluation.

Looking ahead, David Rushforth, programme project manager with Trent Workforce Development Confederation said some human resources departments did not know how many workers they had on their books and figures were set to increase. The 20% underestimate was ‘a source of some grief to me’.

He highlighted a number of forthcoming developments including the book prescription scheme allowing graduate workers to prescribe self-help books. The Nottingham Advocacy group would be reviewing the involvement of users in graduate worker training and an e-learning CD-rom available to all higher education institutes was currently in production.

Kevin Gournay, speaking in his role as honorary president of No Panic – the award winning self help group, said self help could work with the graduate programme but professionals should not interfere with its progress. In fact more self-confident groups might actually consider employing mental health professionals in the way some nurse employers were employing doctors.

Laurence Pollock

Download presentations from the conference at

Download NIHME North West Development Centre’s Primary Care Graduate Mental Health Workers, A Practical Guide in pdf format from /docs/PCGMHWpracticalguide.pdf

Copyright Community Psychiatric Nurses Association Jan 2005

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