Pioneering mental health specialist visits Canterbury

A special overseas visitor recently gave Canterbury’s general practice and mental health teams some food for thought around new ways of providing wellbeing and mental health support.

Dr Patti Robinson, co-founder of the Primary Care Behavioural Health model and Focused Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (FACT), has been involved with the New Zealand health system since 2017 when she was approached to provide advice on a new integrated way to provide mental health, addiction, and wellbeing support in general practice. 

During her visit to Canterbury, Patti hosted a question-and-answer session for general practice teams to give a brief overview of the Primary Care Behavioural Health model and offered examples demonstrating ways that General Practitioners, nurses, and Te Tumu Waiora roles, including Health Improvement Practitioners (HIPs), Health Coaches (HCs) and Support Workers can work together to address patient needs.  

She also hosted a full-day workshop for HIPs and Brief Intervention Talking Therapists (BITT) around the FACT methodology, which is the model used by HIPs and BITTs and uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies to help their patients.  

At the general practice session Patti indicated a person’s environment can prompt the type of complaint they have. 

“Often the clinical setting of a general practice can prompt a physical symptom such as sore tummy or headache rather than considering what may be causing it, such as anxiety or stress," says Patti.

“When you have a HIP or HC down the corridor, they can often see a patient straight away via warm handover.  This provides much better access, with most people seen on same day.”

Patti confirmed that across the globe where the model is used, they’ve noticed higher client satisfaction, a reduction in medication and an 85% improvement over all after one visit (duke score - measure of a person’s health and wellbeing). In New Zealand, there is feedback that this approach results in higher satisfaction rates from Māori.

“Many of these people wouldn’t have accessed this care if a HIP or HC wasn’t at their practice. Any time with a patient is precious and often the only chance to make a difference. If an opportunity is missed, they may not come back.” 

Patti noted that when the HIP, HC or Support Worker works with the patient on a behavioural plan, it is particularly effective. The plan is also accessible by the practice team as they are fully integrated and part of the team on site. 

Te Tumu Waiora Clinical Implementation Lead Shelley McCabe says we were delighted to be able to host Patti and draw from her wealth of knowledge and experience with the primary behavioural health model. 

“The GP teams particularly valued the analogy Patti presented about the ‘landmines’ that need to be avoided and the ‘trampolines’ pursued in their work with HIPs HCs and Support Workers, such as understanding the scope of each of the roles, and how best to utilise them to meet the needs of their patients, as well as ensuring that they are well integrated members of the practice team,” says Shelley.  

Above left: Dr Patti Robinson (second from right) with members of the Canterbury Te Tumu Waiora team, from left Lurita Kurene, Stacy Belser, Brendan Sillifant, Deb Bradshaw, Hiedee Harris, Shelley McCabe and Jackie Moore. 
Above right: Jane McGregor (HIP, Pegasus Health) and Sue Louter (HIP, Waitaha Primary Health).

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