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Chance to merge mental and physical healthcare 'must not be missed'

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Merging services has proven cost effective Merging services has proven cost effective for the NHS

NHS Trusts developing new methods of mental healthcare must share their knowledge with service providers like GP practices or a ‘key opportunity to put mental health at the heart of NHS services’ could be missed, according to a report.

Published by the King’s Fund and the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), Mental health and new models of care looks at the flagship NHS schemes bringing mental and physical healthcare together to provide a full range of treatments across the UK.

Up to 50,000 patients are currently catered for by the vanguards in various trusts and the report suggested evidence shows merging the two branches of healthcare has a positive impact and is more cost effective.

In the Tower Hamlets Together vanguard in East London, the number of bed days accounted for by people with dementia, serious mental illness and depression has been reduced by 12.7%.

However, the report found that mental health has not been a high enough priority and that service changes ‘have not been ambitious enough’. It called for lessons to be learned as new ways of delivering services are rolled out across the country.

The report urged areas that are developing new ways of working – particularly through sustainability and transformation plans – to offer more mental health support in GP surgeries and in hospitals, and to consider mental health as a key part of their approach to public health.

King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham said: ‘Some of the vanguards have made real progress on mental health, but overall we need to go much further. The approaches being developed in the vanguards are intended to be a blueprint for the future of the NHS, so mental health needs to be at their core.

‘Getting this right means better quality care, and could also help the NHS to meet the challenge of providing health care free at the point of use to an ageing population.’

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