We've joined over 40 other organisations and individuals in signing an open letter to the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) in Northern Ireland.

Published today by the #123GP campaign, the letter asks the board – as the statutory organisation which commissions health and social care services for Northern Ireland - to ensure that all GP practices can offer in house access to counselling, and that a funding increase is provided to enable this.

The letter highlights that GPs are the first port of call for over 90% of people worried about their mental health, with one in three GP appointments being for mental health. For many of these people, counselling offers an effective, low cost form of treatment. Yet HSCB figures indicate that a third of GPs don’t currently offer access to practice based counselling.

Signatories express deep concern that the budget allocated by the board for the provision of counselling is nowhere near sufficient to meet the real level of need. #123GP campaigners have calculated that the current budget equates to an average allocation per patient of just £2.29.

BACP Chief Executive Officer, Dr Hadyn Williams says: “We know that the provision of practice-based counselling can play a significant role in effectively treating mental health problems at primary care level, reducing the need for referrals into secondary mental health care services, and improving patient outcomes.

“At a time when rates of mental ill health and suicide in Northern Ireland are rising all GP practices must be able to provide equal access to talking therapies. For access to a counsellor within a GP practice to remain a postcode lottery, as it is currently, would be deeply unjust.”

#123GP campaigners are due to meet with senior officials and HSCB members today (20 August 2018).

Read the full letter