The Counselling in Primary Care (CIPC) service was ‘effective’ or ‘very effective’ in helping to address conditions and issues for 92 per cent of patients, while 72 per cent recovered or improved from their psychological difficulties by the end of counselling.
The findings are outlined in Changing Lives for the Better: A National Evaluation of the HSE NCS Counselling in Primary Care Service (2022), which is set to be published “in the coming weeks”. The data, analysed from 1,322 patients who attended CIPC, was provided to Medical Independent (MI) by the HSE.
Over 90 per cent of clients were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their counsellor’s ability to understand them, work with them on an important issue, and adopt a therapeutic approach that suited them.
CIPC also helped reduce self-harm or suicide risk indicators from 26.7 per cent to 8.5 per cent.
A national survey of 378 GPs found 80 per cent considered the CIPC service beneficial to patients. Some 49 per cent agreed CIPC contributed to a reduction in psychotropic medication prescriptions and 54 per cent said CIPC reduced referrals to adult mental health.
“GPs recognise CIPC as an effective intervention for their patients and [89 per cent] highlighted the need to expand CIPC service beyond those who hold a GMS card,” a HSE spokesperson told MI.
CIPC offers eight counselling sessions to medical card holders referred by their GP. Patients most commonly presented with stress or anxiety, depression, relationship issues, and bereavement. Dublin GP Dr Mark Murphy told MI there were still “several issues” with CIPC.
“It is not based beside GP practices [or] in patients communities,” he said, noting that this can limit access. Other barriers included patients with addiction issues or a pre-existing diagnosis for moderate-to-severe mental health difficulties being ineligible for referral.
Patients must call to opt in to the service and attend an assessment appointment before being offered counselling. There are also long waiting lists for assessment in some areas.
According to the HSE: “The majority of clients were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the convenience, privacy, and suitability of the counselling location (combined rates of ‘satisfied’ and ‘very satisfied’ of 95.3 per cent, 95.8 per cent, and 93.1 per cent, respectively).”