Pegasus Health Primary Health Organisation (PHO) has supported 1256 funded and extended Equally Well consultations in the first six months of the funding programme.

This has come about as a result of additional funding that the Canterbury DHB has received from the Ministry of Health. What this means is the Pegasus Health can purchase ‘Equally Well extended primary care consultations' for people who experience mental health problems and/or addiction. 

Rebecca Nicholls, the mental health lead GP for the Canterbury initiative, says “the prediction was that it would be mainly people with cardiovascular risk and weight issues. However, people are turning up with all sorts of physical health needs. Many GPs have known for a long time, but there simply has not been time in consultations to address their physical needs when other mental health issues are being addressed.

"GPs report a lot of pain issues, often chronic, mobility issues, period and menopause, bowel and bladder issues, irritable bowel, as well as the expected CVD risks. As we are seeing increasingly frequently in general practice, the person’s social issues – housing, employment, finances, and transport – are often critical factors in the person’s physical health.”

The programme allows for four free consultations per year, every year, for people on long term (or anticipated long term) use of antipsychotics, or on the Opioid Substitution Therapy programme (OST). The GP or nurse visits are to look after physical health needs. More funding can sometimes be accessed if there is still a need after a 12-month review. 

The primary care clinicians are supported with addition information from Health Pathways. This includes extra information around the health needs of people with addictions, and community services that support physical wellness in the community. There is also a printable wellness plan template for people to take away. 

It covers anyone who is on or expected to be on antipsychotics for more than three monthsz and patients on opioid substitution treatment and can be used by any clinicians in the GP team.

The funded visits have been fully supported by non-government organisations with the distribution of an information sheet to ensure people who are eligible for the service are fully informed.