The HEAD of a counselling service has assured clients they will not be forgotten after the cancellation of their contract with the NHS.

Tricia Stewart of Counsellors Southwest, (CS) a ‘not for profit’ company, said she was very disappointed the NHS cancelled a contract offering mental health counselling.

The Tavistock-based service, covers 35 GP surgeries covering North Dartmoor, West Devon, South Hams and Teignbridge — about 250,000 people.

The NHS commissioned it to accept referrals to social prescribers or mental health teams. This was cancelled at short notice by the NHS Integrated Care System (ICS) involving seven service providers. The NHS said alternative mental health support is available through the Talkworks service or the community mental ealth teams.

Tricia, CS lead, said: ‘It’s very unusual for the NHS to cancel a contract without lengthy consultation and for patients to be offered the same service albeit in a different form. It doesn’t make sense to us or our clients.

‘Also, we are not failing, we and community mental health teams, have long waiting lists which shows there’s a great demand.’

The government invested more than £111m in mental health services to support 2M more clients by 2023/24. Tricia said: ‘Where have funds been allocated? The people of Devon have less access to a choice of mental health providers than many counties in England.’

‘What makes it worse is that we weren’t involved in decommissioning talks, and neither were doctors at Abbey, Tavyside and Yelverton surgeries which form the Primary Care Network in West Devon’.

She said her team of 24 face uncertainty about their future.

‘We also have the backing of our clients who praise our service and our staff. Until this news, we have been able to offer self-referrals to some clients to ensure continuity of support at difficult times or advise them to request a re-referral from their doctor if needs be. We can no longer do this with such an uncertain future.

‘However, we will do our best not to suddenly leave our clients without any support, despite this shock of the contract.’

The service has been working within the Community Mental Health Framework which encourages close collaboration between different agencies such as the Community Mental Health Teams, Talkworks, housing and other social services. This is aimed at discussing the best way that several teams can work together to provide a streamlined mental health service to people without the need for multiple assessments.

‘This was a very sensible way forward and we were confident it also provided a beneficial route forward for our clients. But that seems to be all up in the air now with our decommissioning being a major backward step.’

Future provision is being shaped with some decommissioned services. But there is no guarantee SCS will survive.A spokesperson for the NHS in Devon said: “The NHS in Devon has undertaken a review of therapy and counselling services in partnership with people with lived experience and the current providers.  

 A spokesman for the NHS in Devon said: 'In the Tavistock area, psychological therapy is already provided through TALKWORKS (a service provided by NHS mental health provider Devon Partnership NHS Trust) and current contracts with some other smaller providers will come to an end later this year to remove this duplication. Voluntary sector partners are working with the NHS and people with lived experience to create the new support and services needed.  This may lead to some change in providers.

 'Anyone currently being seen by one of the existing providers, or who is on a waiting list, will complete their treatment or be safely transitioned to other support.

 'Anyone wanting support should contact TALKWORKS, the NHS Talking Therapies service, either by calling 0300 555 3344 or visiting'