Wellbeing services in general practice (GP)

Hundreds of general practices (where you see your doctor or nurse) have new team members. They can support you and your whānau to improve your mental and physical health and wellbeing.

vector based image of chairs

New general practice team members include Health Improvement Practitioners (HIPs), Health Coaches and Support Workers. Although they may have other names at your general practice.

These new team members work alongside your doctor and nurses and their services are free for enrolled patients. They help your general practice team deliver a wider range of mental wellbeing supports and tools.

Support is available without long waits, often on the same day.

What you can get help with

Wellbeing is a spectrum and your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours can affect it.

These free services (through the Access and Choice programme) are designed as early intervention - to prevent problems from building up. So the best time to reach out is now, as soon as you start to feel that you’d like some help.

Services are tailored to you but could include help to:

  • improve your mood (you may be feeling down, angry, confused, exhausted)
  • change habits to reduce the harm of drinking or drug use
  • understand how what you’re doing can impact how you feel
  • improve your ability to cope with life’s challenges (building on your existing coping skills)
  • learn tools to help you sleep better and address other physical health issues that are impacting your mental wellbeing
  • talk about things that are bothering you – relationships, grief, loneliness, or family violence
  • talk through the impacts of living with long-term health conditions or a disability and make adjustments so you can live well with these challenges
  • increase connection to the positive supports in your life, helping you to feel less alone
  • get connected to services in the community.

No formal referral

This support is available to anyone, of any age, enrolled at a participating general practice. There are no referral criteria. You can get help with any issue that is negatively impacting your health and wellbeing.

Your doctor can often introduce you to the Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP) or Health Coach on same day you see them. Even if the HIP or Health Coach is only in the practice part time you shouldn’t have to wait more than a few days to see them. Contact your general practice to find out the best way to get seen by the HIP, Health Coach or Support Worker.

Not all general practice teams are part of the Access and Choice programme. So they may not have the HIP, Health Coach and Support Worker roles at the practice you’re enrolled at.

Even if your general practice is not yet part of the programme, GPs and practice nurses are trained to recognise and respond to issues regarding mental wellbeing including alcohol and other drug issues.  There are a range of support and resources available for all New Zealanders, both in-person and online. Talk to your GP about what options would best suit your needs.

Services are free

It’s free to see the HIP, Health Coach or Support Worker.

You may need to see your doctor first, and the normal charge for this will apply. Your HIP, Health Coach and Support Worker will work closely with your doctor, but you won’t have to see the doctor (and pay) before follow-up visits.

How it works

The team will work with you to understand your wellbeing needs and provide practical support. You can see them on your own, with your partner or your whānau. They may also offer group sessions.

Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP)

HIPs are experienced mental health clinicians who work with people of all ages and their whānau. They help people with any issues impacting on their health and wellbeing.

Sessions are brief (15-30 minutes) and focus on what is important to you, today. At your first session you will get some strategies and a plan to start making some positive changes. There are no limits to how often you can see the HIP. They will work with you until you are making progress towards your goals. This may only take one session, but you can always come back and see them again if new issues come up.

Health Coach

Health Coaches are not registered health professionals, but they are trained in Health Coaching and work as part of your general practice team. They help you gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to better manage your health. This can include helping you set yourself health goals and supporting you as you work towards them.

Health Coaches may also help you and your whānau find resources in your community/online to support your social, emotional and physical wellbeing. They will support you over time to make progress towards your goals.

Support Worker

Support Workers are based in the community and can help you with anything that is having an impact on your wellbeing. This could include visiting you in your home or connecting you to wider services in the community such as housing or social support. It could include providing cultural support.

Sometimes the Health Coach and Support Worker roles are combined.

Getting in touch

You may have questions about what happens when you reach out to a provider. Once you get in touch, they will explain how their services work and answer any questions. Or they may have this information on their website.

[An older woman is sitting on a chair with flowers behind her, and then shown standing on her balcony drinking a cup of tea. She wears a grey cardigan, black glasses, and has her hair pulled back from her face.]

[Voiceover] Everything just looked so dark, like you're sitting beneath a dark cloud. As if you've lost a loved one and the grief is so deep and so embedded. I didn't realize how much I was taking on board myself without even turning to ask for help.

[A series of people onscreen: a young man is looking at the sea, with his back to the camera. He has a backpack over one shoulder. Rangitoto Island is visible in the distance. A woman is shown in silhouette, looking out a sliding door with net curtains. Two men in white shirts sit at a desk, facing a computer.]

[Over these images, white text reads: Each year, one in five New Zealanders experience mental health or addiction issues. Local general practices are the ideal place to provide free, skilled support for people’s mental wellbeing needs.]

[Title graphic: Integrated Primary Mental Health and Addiction Services in General Practice]

[Jo Chiplin, from the Ministry of Health, sits in an office.]

We're all very aware that we need to transform our approach to mental health and wellbeing in this country, and that's about recognising and responding to distress earlier, giving people greater access to support and greater choice of the supports that are available to them, and doing that in a way that's just part of their routine healthcare.

[Jo is shown talking to another woman]

This approach involves three new roles: health improvement practitioner, or HIP, who's the mental health professional embedded within the general practice team. Working alongside them is a health coach and a support worker. Sometimes they’re combined roles, sometimes they're separate.

[Graphics on screen: Health Improvement Practitioner, Health Coach, Health Support Worker]

The key focus of those roles is to help people learn how to manage their own mental health and well-being and to link people to community supports when they need them.

[Cindy Sharon, a Health Improvement Practitioner in Auckland, sits facing the camera.]

So a HIP is a generalist. We see people of any age for any issue that's impacting on their health and well-being, so one of the great benefits of a HIP in your practice is there is no referral criteria. If someone presents on the day and they need some assistance, we are there for any issue. So that means if someone comes in and they're in distress that day, they don't need to have a referral out, they don't need to wait several weeks - they can see us literally within 10 to 15 minutes.

[Dr Andrew Miller, a GP from Whangarei, stands with his arms crossed, smiling and looking at the camera. Then he is shown sitting at his desk in his office, with medical equipment behind him.]

The benefits to actually having a health coach and health improvement practitioner in the practice is that we can now ask people what really matters to them and deal with it on the spot right away. So it makes us so much more confident about asking people what really matters and then being able to do something immediately.

[Dr Tim Hou, a GP in Auckland, is shown at his desk.]

Oh, it's been a game changer for us. I think in the 20 years that I’ve been in general practice this is probably the model that stands out as the best innovation that I’ve had any experience with. There are no barriers to referral.

[Dr Hou talks to a patient, then walks down a corridor and introduces the patient to the Health Improvement Practitioner]

[Voiceover] In fact, we just walk them down the corridor when we have an issue and knock on the door and generally that's it. That’s the referral process.

[Tania Windleborn, a Health Improvement Practitioner in Kaitaia, sits in her office as she speaks to the camera.] You can help that person on that day go away with a plan that is going to help them.

[Tania and Herepete Herbert, a Health Coach, talk in a corridor, then Herepete is shown working with people in their homes.]

[Tania Windleborn Voiceover] I’m clinic based and the health coach is community and clinic based. I often describe him as the octopus going out and gathering up and visiting people.

[Herepete Herbert sits in his office, with a colourful chart on the wall behind him]

On top of the medical issues that they come in to see the doctor, we can support them with whatever social issues that they're dealing with.

[Michelle Ball, Implementation Lead, Northland, sits facing the camera]

So what really excites me about this model is that it's people-centred, it's bringing services to where people feel most comfortable to come to.

[Scenes of a Health Improvement Practitioner working with a client, demonstrating breathing exercises.]

[Voiceover] And it's providing resources when they need the most. They don't have to wait, they don't have to go and see somebody they don't know, it's right there at their general practice.

[Dr Andrew Miller shows a patient and Health Improvement Practitioner into his office, followed by scenes of the practice staff having a meeting together.]

[Voiceover] Now I can confidently ask people what matters to them. I am finding at least 80 percent of the time it's stuff that sits outside health, to do with parts of their life that are negatively impacting on their well-being. And I need to sort those things out if I want to really care for people properly, and now I can.

[Jo Chiplin talks to the camera again]

It's new, it's transformative, we need to understand what works well, we need to understand the challenges, and we need to be flexible enough to make sure that this works for each practice and the community that they serve.

[The woman from the start of the video is show walking into a room with Tania Windleborn, the Health Improvement Practitioner in Kaitaia. Both women are smiling. The woman is shown in her house again.]

I felt like with all this help that was put in place that we were just… they were all helping me to walk through it. You know when you're a child and you've got your friends and you're all walking together holding hands? That's what it felt like for me. That's what I felt.

[Screen fades to white, with black text: with this approach there are no barriers to people seeking help with their physical health, mental health or addiction issues. It connects people to the support they need within the practice or the wider community.]

[Video ends with a graphic of the Ministry of Health logo]

What people are saying about GP team services

I feel like I am on the right track

“When meeting with my doctor, they went and got the HIP and introduced them. It was good to know that someone was going to give me some tools and advice. I was quite overwhelmed going into doctor, so it was good to know there was someone there who could support me. I was in a bad place, and I didn’t know where to go for support. The HIP was so calming. It was good to feel heard and they gave me heaps of tools and advice on problems. I made a lot of improvement; I feel like I am on the right track.”

I didn't revert back to my old drug taking ways

“The best thing for me was I didn't revert back to my old drug taking ways… cannabis was a big thing, too. Yeah, in all honesty, I did that when my grandad passed away. But I thought it was better than touching any other stupider drugs. But then I got to the point where that wasn't even doing anything. So I just eliminated that. So I'm on top of quite a lot of it now. “

It was calming to make a plan and get some control

“In my experience of anxiety/depression everything is overwhelming. It was calming to make a plan and get some control. If the doctor just gives medication, it doesn’t work for a while, what can you do in the interim? It addressed all issues that I was having, not just health.”

It's something I've always wanted to do all my life

“A long time I had a dream and it was to change careers. [Health Coach] goes ‘well what do you think about changing careers?’ I go, ‘I've been thinking about it but it was down to my age’. She goes, ‘no you're never too old to try your passion.’ So I took her advice and I went around to every [specific business type], put my name out there, told them I'd love to work as part of the [business] because it's something I've always wanted to do all my life. I'm actually there now. … I love it.”

It was very simple, but so effective

“It was very simple, but so effective. They helped me to progress quite rapidly from deep depression to good, liveable space.”

It was one of the best things I have done

“The HIP was so easy to talk to… There was no judgement, they just gave me tools and explained things at a level I could understand – it wasn’t all clinical. The tools are great for when I get stressed. People need tools that are helpful to be able to do every day, without having to book into an appointment. I didn’t think it would have much impact, but I wanted to try it. It was one of the best things I have done.”