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Anger at cut to GP surgery's counselling service

PUBLISHED: 05:03 28 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:22 28 December 2018

Funding has been removed for the counselling service run at Cutlers Hill Surgery by Carol Shaw, pictured. Picture: CAROL SHAW

Funding has been removed for the counselling service run at Cutlers Hill Surgery by Carol Shaw, pictured. Picture: CAROL SHAW

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A counsellor who has provided one-to-one support to patients with mental ill health for 27 years has spoken of her anger at a decision to cut the service.

Carol Shaw was seeing about 80 patients from Halesworth’s Cutler’s Hill Surgery at any one time to help treat them for conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder, as well as provide emotional support.

But NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which pays for healthcare services in the area, will stop funding Mrs Shaw’s service at the end of March 2019.

“This comes after a comprehensive review found the processes which are in place did not allow us to monitor treatment and patient outcomes effectively,” said Rebecca Hulme, the CCG’s chief nurse.

Mrs Shaw’s service will be replaced with a wellbeing service already used by other GP surgeries in the area, which Ms Hulme said would “bring the services in line with those provided for every other patient across Norfolk and Waveney”.

Those services include access to face-to-face support, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, as well as telephone and internet services.

However Mrs Shaw, who is currently in the process of discharging patients, said people would miss the direct support of a counsellor who they get to know and trust over up to 12 sessions.

She also believes the wellbeing service will not provide the same level of support, arguing that it is “efficient in terms of finances but not in terms of personal care”.

“Halesworth has lost so many services,” she said.

“It is a rural area and people in Halesworth are pretty fed up that services are getting less and less.

“The counselling is not a service you can access anywhere else. Patients don’t have to fit a direct criteria.

“People with depression and anxiety are not great at coming forward but if you know you’ve got a relationship with someone, you’re much more likely to get help. You get a much more person-centred service.”

A number of people commented on a Facebook post written by Mrs Shaw to share her frustration at the decision.

“I think people are just really angry, upset and sad at the decision,” she said. “I can’t say I’ve got a lot of confidence in the mental health provision.”

However Ms Hulme said: “Mental and emotional wellbeing is a priority for our CCG and we are committed to making sure every patient can access the right support to meet their needs.

“We are working closely with the practice to review each individual case and put appropriate plans in place so that patients can transition safely to one of the variety of existing services which are available.”

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