Mental health trusts are a major barrier to developing mental health wellbeing services in community settings, a GP specialist in the field has said.

Dr Ian Walton, PEC chair of Sandwell PCT, has pioneered the commissioning of community based wellbeing services in his area.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation annual conference in Manchester, he said the service had been “very hard to get up and running” and identified mental healthfoundation trusts as one of the biggest challenges.

He said: “They see it as their job to do mental health.

“There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what mental health in the community is and its different to psychiatry . In my experience psychiatrists and mental health trusts don’t get that and they don’t get this wellbeing stuff.”

Dr Walton added: “I had to be PEC chair to protect the money so that it went into primary care, because the mental health trust said this is ours, we are the experts on wellbeing in mental health and we set will set the services up.”

He said: “It’s a national problem too I’m afraid. Managers will not let psychiatrists talk to GPs so its very hard for us to get dialogue with our psychiatrists. How can we get integrated services when we can’t get these dialogues going and get the services to integrate between primary and secondary care.”

Dr Walton suggested that the move to GP commissioning may improve the situation.

But Cambridge and Peterborough Mental Health Foundation Trust chair Anne Campbell said she disagreed with Dr Walton’s view.

Se said: “I just want to challenge the notion that mental health foundation trusts are stopping change.

“We have shifted a huge amount of our services to the primary sector. We are largest provider of primary mental health care in our region anyway.”

She added that she thought the project in Sandwell fitted in really well with what they wanted to do in her area.