Doctor's surgeries throughout the country are to get their own in-house psychologists. A thousand newly-qualified graduates are to be recruited to treat mild forms of mental illness, including depression and panic attacks.

Doctor's surgeries throughout the country are to get their own in-house psychologists. A thousand newly-qualified graduates are to be recruited to treat mild forms of mental illness, including depression and panic attacks.

Family doctors will be able to refer patients to the clinical psychologists, to be hired under the Government's NHS National Plan being unveiled next week by Tony Blair.

"These are people who suffer a short-term crisis of four to six weeks, through anxiety, depression after the loss of a loved one, and panic attacks," said a source. "GPs will be able to refer them to psychologists in their own surgeries so that we can tackle mental health problems much earlier."

Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, whose partner Ruth is an NHS consultant psychiatrist, is giving priority to mental illness, which affects one in four of the population during their lifetime.

The care-in-the -community programme, which saw the abolition of many large institutions for the mentally ill under the last Tory government, came under fire after a series of violent attacks, including the killing of Jonathan Zito by Christopher Clunis, a paranoid schizophrenic, in north London in 1992.

Mr Milburn will make it clear there can be no return to big mental hospitals. But with mental illness likely to affect most families, he is determined to fill in the gaps left by the last government in support for patients released into the community.

It is estimated that by 2004 more than 300,000 people will be helped by the psychologists attached to surgeries.

Mr Milburn will also announce the creation of early- intervention teams to deal with those in their late teens and early 20s who suffer psychosis and schizophrenia but who could benefit from early help. Fifty teams will be appointed over the next three years, at a cost of £33m.

A "crisis resolution" service to deal with acute mental illness cases will respond quickly to people in a crisis, providing assessment and treatment, whether they are in a home or a hostel or held by police. There will be 335 teams appointed over the next three years, at a cost of £130m. It is expected they will treat more than 100,000 people a year who would otherwise have to be admitted to hospital. It is estimated that the load on acute in-patient services could be reduced by 30 per cent.

To safeguard the public, the Government will increase the number of "assertive outreach" teams working seven days a week to make sure that potentially violent patients released into the community are taking medication and follow the advice of their medical specialists. A national framework policy for mental health proposed setting up 170 teams but Mr Milburn will add a further 50 to deal with an additional 5,000 patients who could be "at risk".

Women-only day centres will be set up to deal with women suffering from mental depression. There will be 100, costing £15m a year.

* Undercover investigators posing as patients will be sent in to NHS hospitals to check on standards following a damning report to Mr Milburn by Virgin Group executives.

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