A range of new mental health services have been launched by NHS England to provide support for tens of thousands of people living with long-term physical health issues.
Starting this month, NHS England will work with 22 Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services covering 30 clinical commissioning groups to offer more integrated psychological therapies to an estimated 30,000 people living with long-term physical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease over the next two years.
The integrated IAPT programme will fund therapists – trainees and experienced clinicians – many of whom will be based in GP surgeries. It will also pay for more training for therapists working with people with mental and physical health problems, and support for the clinicians working in services for example, therapists running groups for people with diabetes.
Evidence shows around half of people with anxiety disorders or depression have a long-term physical health problem such as diabetes, a respiratory disease or a medically unexplained symptom like chronic pain or chronic fatigue. A pilot by NHS England and the published literature show that treating people’s physical and mental health problems in a joined-up way can lead to better outcomes improving people’s mental health and the management of their long-term condition can result in at least 20% lower physical healthcare costs.
Professor Tim Kendall, NHS England’s national clinical director for mental health, said: “England is almost unique in providing easy access to effective psychological treatments for anxiety and depression in primary care. But there are many people with long-term physical health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, who also suffer from depression and anxiety, which mainly goes untreated and makes their physical health worse. So I am really pleased that we are now reaching out to many of these people, and will soon be able to offer them psychological help. This is especially important at a time of year when many frail older people with physical and mental health problems become lonely and isolated. The new services… are a first step to us reaching more and more of these people.”
NHS England is providing £31 million to fund the new integrated services starting in 30 areas of the country. Local health managers can now also apply for an extra £20 million to fund further services of this type.
The first wave of sites will initially focus on diabetes, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease, long-term conditions where the evidence of the impact of this approach is strongest. Services will also support people with cancer, and medically unexplained symptoms such as chronic pain and chronic fatigue syndrome.