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Bridging the gap between physical and mental healthcare

24 Mar 2016

A West London Mental Health Trust team in Ealing, who normally treat people in a severe mental health crisis, have been running clinics to help patients look after their physical as well as mental health.

Physical healthcare clinic Exch

The clinic was developed by the trust’s crisis resolution and home treatment team using the Rethink tools on physical healthcare, to address the fact that people with mental health problems are at greater risk of physical illnesses. These include conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory problems and obesity, which may lead to disability and shorter life expectancy.

The clinic delivers more integrated care, helping patients with a range of physical health issues such as allergies, diet, smoking cessation, prostate/mammogram screenings, sexual health and blood sugar testing.

The team has already picked up on a range of serious physical health problems in their patients. One gentleman thought he was physically very well, but after being seen by the clinic it was discovered he had dangerously high blood pressure. The team consulted with his GP and were able to start him on anti-hypertensive medication within 24 hours, potentially preventing him from going on to have a stroke or heart attack.

Ed Sammons who runs the clinic said: “I’m extremely pleased that we’re able to offer this service. There’s a wealth of evidence that shows how closely linked mental and physical health problems are, and how this can impact on people’s lives. For example, the risk factors linked to heart disease are common among people with schizophrenia. The fact that we’ve already managed to help service users with a variety of health problems shows just how important it is we’ve started this clinic.”

Patients like that the clinic links them to other services, such as gyms and dieticians, and supports them in achieving their recovery goals. A number of people also appreciated the opportunity to talk about sexual health issues that they were too embarrassed to discuss with their GP.

Physical health screenings also mean people are less likely to be admitted to A&E, as issues are spotted before they become life-threatening. This integrated approach will lead to fewer hospital admissions, a reduction in relapse rates and lower healthcare costs.

As a result of the outstanding service being provided by the team, the clinic gained a 4/5 rating from the CORE Fidelity Study, a programme which aims to improve the standard of crisis teams. Due to this high rating the clinic featured as an example of good practice on CORE’s national study website.

Puja Sahai, who helped to manage and develop the clinic, said: “I am really passionate about offering service users an integrated approach to physical and mental healthcare, and addressing the huge gap in life expectancy. To improve the clinic for the future, we are in the process of linking up with GPs and other healthcare providers to deliver a more seamless package of care.”

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