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‘More can be done' to integrate physical and mental health care

A new report claims the NHS need to be better at addressing physical issues linked to mental health problems
Ella Pickover, Press Association Health Correspondent

MORE needs to be done to address the psychological problems associated with being ill, a new report states.

According to health charity The King's Fund, health officials also need to address the physical issues that come as a result of mental health problems – and integrating physical and mental health care could both save the health service money and improve care for patients.

Their new report states that there are high rates of mental health conditions among people with long-term physical health problems such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease – which could be costing the NHS £8 billion each year in England alone.

And poor management of "medically unexplained symptoms" – such as persistent pain or tiredness – costs the health service around £3 billion annually.

Meanwhile people with severe mental illness have significantly reduced life expectancies – largely attributable to poor physical health, the authors said.

"Traditionally physical and mental health have operated as distinct, separate systems in terms of both treatment and funding," explained Chris Naylor, senior fellow at The King's Fund.

"That is no longer affordable financially or acceptable clinically.

"The Government has set the goal of parity of esteem, meaning that mental health care should be 'as good as' physical health care.

"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."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We are absolutely committed to making sure physical and mental health are treated equally and the interaction between the two is recognised.

"Only recently, the NHS published its plan to revolutionise mental health care with an additional £1 billion invested by 2020."

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