SCIE Introduction mental health services


This Introduction to... briefing gives a brief overview of the adult mental health (AMH) system, and the legislation and guidance that covers the structure and delivery of services. It is aimed at people who have little or no experience in this area.

The guide includes details of:

It also gives links to further information about mental illness, treatments and interventions.

As with all health and social care services, AMH can be complex and have a wide range of elements and interventions. Each area will have a different way of delivering these services. It is therefore important that you get further information from the resources listed here and the local service that you work in.

AMH services are usually offered within a mental health trust. AMH is sometimes called secondary care, which means that it is specialised and usually only available to people who are referred by a GP or other health/social care professional. AMH teams are usually ‘multidisciplinary’ and include nurses, social workers, medical staff and therapists.

AMH services offer a wide range of interventions for adults aged 18–65 in a community or hospital setting. (Older people’s mental health services for people over 65 will depend on local protocol, so check with your local area.) The day-to-day framework for delivering AMH services is based on the Care Programme Approach (CPA) and the rules of the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 (CCA). When a GP refers a patient and the AMH service accepts this referral, the stages of care are: assessment, planning, intervention and then discharge back to the care of the person's GP.

The length of time that a person is treated within AMH services depends on the nature of their problem, any risks, the type of intervention needed, and the person’s willingness to take part in the treatment.

It is also important that you understand where the person is receiving their mental health care – about 80 per cent of people who experience mental health distress are supported by their GP. The Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) initiative has raised the expectation in recent years for psychological interventions to be more easily available in primary care.

In this resource