Practice Aligned

Mental Health

Our Practice Aligned Mental Health Service supports people with mild to moderate mental health conditions.

By working in collaboration to create an innovative service, access to mental health intervention and treatment for thousands of people have been vastly increased.

what it means

The service was designed collaboratively between DDHF, The Tees, Esk and Wear Valley Foundation Trust (TEWV) and Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group (DDES CCG).

In some cases, patients were being unnecessarily referred to hospital or specialist treatment, and others were returning to their GPs on an increasingly regular basis.

The service was conceived to ‘catch’ people who didn’t fit into existing pathways. The product of this collaborative approach was the Practice Aligned Mental Service, which launched in April 2016.

The ‘practice aligned’ element means patients can access expert mental health support and advice within the familiar surroundings of their local GP surgery.

While operating as its own separate entity, the service is deeply integrated with GPs and other existing mental health services.

How it works

Our team work alongside local GPs, and see patients in their practices. Anyone aged over 18 can be referred to us, except in cases of dementia or memory-related issues.

We specialise in mild to moderate mental health issues – depression, anxiety, phobias – common conditions that are best served with a listening ear and some positive support.

Over half a dozen hour-long sessions, patients can take their time to talk about their issues, and work with us to create a personalised care plan. 

We sit between existing counselling or therapy services and secondary mental health services. We often refer patients to other teams to get the best treatment.

When people are discharged from services like psychiatry, we act as a stepping stone to support them, before being returned to the care of their GP.

How it helps

As a patient-focused service, we prioritise the comfort of the people we see. We believe that investing time, actively listening and being approachable and friendly builds trust and boosts their recovery.

We offer people time to talk in an informal, judgement-free space – to vent, to open up and to problem solve together.

For some patients, the space and support to work through dealing with distress or behavioural issues, is all they need.

For others, our discussions lead to referrals to other services. Help with anger management or strengthening their emotional resilience, for example.

The speed with which we can meet people for an initial assessment – 14 working days – means patients can get help quicker, and frees up valuable GP appointments as well.


Day wait to assessment
patients seen*
hour-long sessions*

* April ’17 to December ’19


Team Lead Sarah joined DDHF in 2020.

Sarah Scott, Team Lead Practice Aligned Mental Health Services


What this service allows patients is time. Time to feel comfortable, time to get to know us, trust us and be happy to open up. That’s the first step to getting people to the help they need.

For example, we worked with a patient who was seeing their GP for weekly double appointments, telephone consultations and more.

Over the course of 6 months working with this patient we provided them with the support they needed, and saved 15 hours of GP time.