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Integrating physical and mental healthcare could save NHS billions

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People with mental illness need physical checks People with mental illness need physical checks

Integrating physical and mental health services could save the NHS more than £11billion a year a new report by The King's Fund has found.

The King's Fund report echoes the Mental Health Taskforce report, released last month, as both call for the need to integrate physical and mental healthcare. The King's Fund's offering Bringing together physical and mental health: a new frontier for integrated care identifies 10 areas where there is scope for improvement across the system.

Chris Naylor, senior fellow at The King’s Fund, said: ‘Traditionally physical and mental health have operated as distinct, separate systems in terms of both treatment and funding. That is no longer affordable financially or acceptable clinically. The government has set the goal of parity of esteem, meaning that mental healthcare should be “as good as” physical health are. We argue that there is an even greater prize at stake – that mental health care should be delivered “as part of” an integrated approach to health.’

One of the recommendations is the need to bridge the gap between secondary and primary care. It reiterated that most practice nurses do not receive training in how to perform physical health checks for people with severe mental health illnesses and that barriers to accessing primary care for physical health checks could be exacerbated by stigma and socioeconomic inequalities among people with severe mental illnesses.

The Kings's Fund report recommended that there should be comprehensive provision of annual physical health checks with practice nurses receiving appropriate training to conduct these checks. It also recommends that practices identify relevant individuals on their lists using disease registers and patient records. Practices should provide specific clinics to provide those with severe mental illnesses with the appropriate physical health checks such as blood tests or ECGs.The report contains examples of this already happening in the NHS such as in Bradford and Airedale where the practice nurses and healthcare assistants take most of the measurements and data for those with mental illnesses.

The £11billion a year is the collective cost of the high rates of mental health issues among those with long-term conditions, limited support for the psychological aspects of physical health and poor management of 'medically unexplained symptoms' such as persistent pain or tiredness.

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