£2.6million NHS cash for Suffolk to target link between mental and physical health

Generic view inside Ipswich Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Generic view inside Ipswich Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The link between mental and physical health is to be targeted with £2.6million NHS cash for Suffolk to improve support for people with conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Ipswich Hospital Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ipswich Hospital Picture: GREGG BROWN

The county’s clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which are responsible for buying healthcare services in Suffolk, say more than one in three people with mental ill health also have long-term physical problems.

That, papers ahead of a meeting this week said, can worsen illnesses - with depression shown to exacerbate chronic heart problems and controlling anxiety helping to manage a lung disease sufferer’s shortness of breath.

“A person’s mental and physical healthcare are intrinsically linked,” the papers say.

“There is clear evidence that the presence of a long-term physical health condition markedly increases the risk of a mental health problem and vice versa.

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“Left untreated, mental health problems can have a significant impact on the person’s physical health as well as the overall cost of their care.”

But at the moment, the CCGs say, “people often receive their mental health and physical health care in separate services that are rarely coordinated” - something which they admit is “inconvenient for patients”.

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Public Health Suffolk has also said more than half of all hospital inpatients have a mental health condition and that “there needs to be more integration between physical and mental health care for people in Suffolk”.

So more money is to be pumped into recruiting 43 extra staff for NHS services, including 19 cognitive behavioural therapists and 14 psychological wellbeing practitioners - with the goal of “ensuring that a person’s mental and physical health needs are valued equally”.

The £898,596 set to be spent in 2019/2020 will particularly target people with chronic heart disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and diabetes, with another £1.7million due for 2020/2021.

Eugene Staunton, associate director of transformation for mental health at Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and West Suffolk CCG, said: “This is a significant chunk of funding. Patients who traditionally go in to see a diabetes consultant, for example, will now have access to psychological services.

“We’re putting additional resource into it because we know people with mental health conditions are more likely to have physical health issues as well.

“As mental health becomes less taboo, more people are identifying a need for mental health support.

“Demand is increasing year on year and coming through the doors of GP surgeries. This service helps to provide more capacity.”

The additional funding for the the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service is due to be voted on by both Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and West Suffolk CCG’s governing bodies when they meet this week.

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